Abbotsford hit-and-run driver apologies to victim's family

Kenneth Howarth is seen here in an earlier appearance at the Abbotsford courthouse. - John Van Putten
Kenneth Howarth is seen here in an earlier appearance at the Abbotsford courthouse.
— image credit: John Van Putten

The man who struck and killed 80-year-old pedestrian Bachan Gill of Abbotsford on Sept. 30, 2010 was himself the victim of a serious car accident nine years ago that left him with a brain injury.

At a sentencing hearing this afternoon (Wednesday) for Kenneth Howarth, 27, the court was told that the February 2002 accident, which was not Howarth’s fault, killed his girlfriend of three years and left him in intensive care for several weeks.

Howarth pleaded guilty in March to the charge of failing to stop at the scene of an accident in relation to Gill’s death. The senior had been heading west on a marked crosswalk on Clearbrook Road, where it intersects with Newcastle Drive, when he was hit by Howarth, who was travelling south in a Ford F150 truck.

Witnesses reported seeing a truck flee the area. Gill died on the scene, and Howarth turned himself in to police the following day.

His lawyer, Jack Harris, said at the sentencing hearing in Abbotsford provincial court that people with brain injuries sometimes struggle with issues of impulsivity.

“To some degree, that might have been a trigger for (Howarth) to leave.”

Crown counsel Kimberly Jansen said text messages retrieved by police from Howarth’s cellphone indicated that he had sent a note to his common-law wife immediately after the collision, saying he was “scared and shaky” and he would be coming home “right after the game.”

Howarth, in a letter read in court by his lawyer to the Gills, said he did not know how the collision had occurred and had not seen Gill before he struck him.

“I regret that I left the scene of the accident and caused further worry to your family,” Harris read, as Howarth turned and faced about 10 members of the Gill family who were at the sentencing hearing.

Both Harris and Jansen mentioned that the Howarth family had donated $5,000 to the Gills for the purchase of a memorial plaque to rest with Gill’s remains at the local crematorium.

Gill’s son, Balbir, said the gesture was appreciated.

“It sounds like he (Howarth) is really sorry for (the accident),” he said.

Jansen has recommended that Howarth receive a three-month jail term and three-year driving prohibition, while Harris suggested a three-month conditional sentence (house arrest) and a prohibition of one year to 18 months.

The judge has reserved his decision until June 29.

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