Nearly three years after a hit-and-run in which a trailer became unhitched from a van and fatally struck a Brampton man riding his bike to work, the trial began Monday for the accused.
Pritpal Lehl, who is out on bail, stood up in a small courtroom on the second floor of the Brampton courthouse and pleaded not guilty to five counts including failure to remain causing death, criminal negligence causing death, possession of property obtained by crime and two counts of failing to comply with bail conditions, as family members of the 39-year-old victim, Paul De Pledge, watched from the small gallery.
Assistant Crown Attorney Amy Mountjoy opened the trial by telling Justice David E. Harris that the allegations of criminal negligence pertain to the way in which Lehl hooked up a trailer to a van and failed to remain at the scene of an accident.
Mountjoy said it was the early morning hours of Aug. 1, 2018 when the driver of a white cargo van with distinct decals attended a Brampton U-Haul lot at 152 East Drive, hooked up an open air trailer to the vehicle and stole it.
Court heard that approximately one kilometre away, around 6 a.m., the van and trailer was going north on Summerlea Road in Brampton when it became detached, rolled into oncoming traffic and struck De Pledge who was riding his bike southbound. De Pledge was dragged up onto the westbound curb and across a grassy area, before becoming pinned between the trailer and the side of a building belonging to Keele Warehousing and Logistics.
Video surveillance shown in court captured the van driving off northbound. Court heard the driver did not offer any assistance to the cyclist. De Pledge was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mountjoy told Harris that shortly after the collision, a white van was found abandoned in front of 63 Jasper Crescent and two individuals were seen fleeing on a motorcycle. Mountjoy told Harris the van was stolen, and so was a license plate in the back of the van.
In outlining its case, the crown said that Joyce Pasiecznick, a former girlfriend of Lehl’s, who was charged with accessory after the fact for her role in disposing of the van, is expected to testify that she was a passenger in the van at the time.
“The main issue at trial will be the identity of the driver of the white van,” explained Mountjoy.
Outside court, De Pledge’s siblings, parent and other family members remembered a beloved brother, son and uncle who they said had just ten to fifteen seconds left on his 20-minute morning ride to work at a business on Summerlea Road where he worked as a forklift operator.
“He was actually filling in for another guy who was away on vacation, so he was on the wrong shift and he was just in the wrong spot,” said De Pledge’s older brother Colin, remembering Paul as an easygoing person who was well-liked and always there for you.
He and his brothers loved cheering on different soccer teams and Paul’s mother Marion showed off a photo him wearing a Liverpool jersey.
Colin said the timing of the trial is unfortunate.
“We’re coming up to the third anniversary of my brother’s death and we’re going through this process, during this time, which we think is kind of insensitive and could have been avoided,” he said, added the family wants justice.
“We are serving a life sentence. We will never see our brother again so I would hope that he gets a stiff sentence,” said Keyden Gordon, Paul’s sister-in-law.
The trial continues.