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Driver sentenced to one year in Surrey senior's death

Pritam Benning's family says justice was not done for family patriarch hit at bus stop by Gurjit Dhillon in 2009.
Gurjit Dhillon (shown at an earlier court appearance) lost control of a Corvette and drove into 83-year-old Pritam Benning (below) in Surrey in 2009. Dhillon was sentenced to one year in prison and given a five-year driving ban by a provincial court judge on Wednesday (April 10).

Surrey’s Gurjit Dhillon was handed a one-year jail sentence Wednesday afternoon for hitting and killing an 83-year-old man sitting at a Newton bus stop.

Surrey grandfather Pritam Benning was critically injured in the rush hour crash in September 2009. He was waiting at a transit stop near 128 Street and 72 Avenue when a black Corvette driven by Gurjit Dhillon jumped the curb and struck him. Benning’s legs were amputated and he was unconscious in hospital for five days before passing away.

Outside court, Benning’s family said Dhillon’s 12-month sentence was insufficient for taking their family patriarch’s life. Son Manjit Benning said his father came to Canada thinking it was a better country.

“I’m wondering if he’d be thinking that right now?” said Manjit. “It’s just senseless.”

Dhillon, 28, was found guilty of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death last November. A charge of street racing was dropped.

The defence argued the brake system on Dhillon’s car was faulty, but the judge didn’t buy that theory, saying the car lost control before the brakes were applied.

Judge James Jardine reiterated his findings Wednesday, saying Dhillon’s risky actions were solely to blame for the fatal crash, not the workings of the vehicle.

“You need to come to grips with those stark facts,” Jardine told Dhillon, adding “wishful thinking” would not help him find the courage to move on.

Dhillon was following a yellow Corvette on Sept. 16, 2009 when the two cars came to a stop at the intersection. When the light turned green, Dhillon accelerated abruptly, tried to change lanes and hit another car before spinning out of control and launching toward Benning.

Dhillon called 911, telling the operator “I hit a person. Something happened to my car. It just went out of control.”

The Crown had asked for a two-and-a-half year prison sentence, while the defence argued a suspended sentence was sufficient as Dhillon has no previous criminal record. The court heard Dhillon has been severely depressed since the crash and suffers post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dhillon, whose wife is expecting their first child in July, has a tattoo with Benning’s name and the date of the crash on his forearm, with the words “The day everything changed.”

His wife cried upon hearing the sentence, as did his mother, who nearly collapsed exiting the courtroom.

Dhillon is also banned from driving for five years.