Thirteen-year-old Leila Bui was sleeping as her family pushed her wheelchair outside the Victoria Law Courts Monday morning. They said they felt it was important for the girl to be there.
“We want people to know that this is what happened, and we want to know that she had a lot of goals and ambitions in her life and this was taken away from her, it was robbed from her,” said her father Tuan Bui.
Tenessa Nikirk, in her early 20s, hid her face and didn’t answer questions as she left the courtroom after being found guilty of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Nikirk could be seen wiping tears away as the judge described how the young woman was speeding, tailgating and texting the morning her black Mercedes SUV struck Bui, 11 at the time, in a Saanich crosswalk.
Dashcam video used as evidence in the trial, showed Nikirk passing two vehicles at once that morning, reaching 100 km/hour in a 50 km/hour zone, and the judge says she was still “well in excess of the speed limit” at the time of impact.
Judge Mayland McKimm also noted that Nikirk was distracted, sending and receiving 18 text messages in the 24 minutes before the crash.
McKimm says evidence shows Leila stopped and looked both ways before she entered the crosswalk that December morning, which was an important finding for the girl’s family.
“Today is some confirmation to me and give me some comfort to say we did teach her right and she is a smart girl and it’s not her fault,” said Leila’s mother Kairry Nguyen.
A date for Nikirk’s sentencing will be set Feb.4. Leila’s family says it’s not jail time they’re after but rather an apology.
“As horrific as it is, it is an accident, I know she didn’t intend to get in her car that day and I’m going to go and I’m going to run over a kid you know? So it is an accident but if it was me, I would go to the parents and I would say I’m truly sorry you know? But she didn’t,” said Nguyen.
The Bui’s hope when people see what’s happened to Leila, who has a severe brain injury and requires around the clock care, it will prevent them from speeding or picking up their phones behind the wheel.
“I urge drivers when they’re out there, pay attention, be careful, don’t be on your phone, please don’t let this happen to another child or anybody else, it’s devastating for the family… very devastating and I would never wish it on anyone,” said Nguyen.