Tuan Bui and Kairry Nguyen, parents of Leila Bui, speak outside the courtroom after the woman who hit their daughter in a Saanich crosswalk in 2017 was sentenced to two years in prison. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Tuan Bui and Kairry Nguyen, parents of Leila Bui, speak outside the courtroom after the woman who hit their daughter in a Saanich crosswalk in 2017 was sentenced to two years in prison. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Driver who left Saanich girl with catastrophic brain injuries sentenced to two years in prison

Tenessa Nikirk, 27, sentenced for striking Leila Bui, then 11

Three years and one day since Saanich girl Leila Bui was struck in a crosswalk and left with catastrophic brain injuries, the driver who hit her was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

On Monday morning Tenessa Nikirk, 27, sat behind her lawyer and dabbed at her eyes as Provincial Court Judge Mayland McKimm read through the facts of the case.

On Dec. 20, 2017, Leila, then 11, was walking to school when she was struck by a Mercedes SUV driven by Nikirk while in a crosswalk on Ash Road at Torquay Drive. Leila was thrown roughly 25 metres before she was wedged beneath another car stopped some distance from the crosswalk.

It was later found that Nikirk was driving erratically and had sent and received several texts in the moments before she struck Leila.

The child was kept in an induced coma for several weeks after the crash and has since remained in a non-responsive state, requiring constant care. In his decision, McKimm detailed the extent of Leila’s injuries, telling the court that the right side of Leila’s brain is entirely destroyed and the left side is seriously compromised.

Leila Bui remains in an unresponsive state more than two years since she was struck in a Saanich crosswalk. The now 13-year-old was in court when a guilty verdict was read for Tenessa Nikirk, the woman who struck her. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

RELATED: Lawyer says SUV that hit Leila Bui was going 53 km/h at point of impact

“Three years later, she remains in a vegetative state,” he said. “While she can generally breathe on her own she regularly requires the assistance of medical devices that are attached to a permanent trachea tube. She is non-responsive.

“The family of this child has been forever damaged by the accused’s criminal behavior.”

In January, Nikirk was convicted of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Her two-year sentence will be followed by a three-year driving ban.

Huddled beneath an umbrella outside the courtroom, Leila’s parents said the sentence brings some relief.

“The only good thing that came out of this is this sentencing,” said Kairry Nguyen, Leila’s mother. “We want to teach … the next person that gets into a car and thinks about texting or speeding [to know] this is what can happen.”

Nguyen said the family is focusing on the time they have with Leila.

“As long as she’s with us, and she’s healthy and we’re advocating for all her needs … just to have her with us – it’s the most important thing.”

Tuan Bui, Leila’s father, applauds the judge’s decision.

“We’re glad that it’s over,” he said. “It’s finally over. And now we focus on the remedies for Leila that so that she can have a quality life going forward.”

In his decision, McKimm noted that Nikirk has shown remorse and volunteered restorative justice – factors he said he considered in his sentence. The maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing bodily harm is 10 years.

“Driving is a privilege that can wreak great havoc when it is exercised recklessly,” he said. “Accordingly, sentences for dangerous driving must unambiguously express society’s condemnation of the conduct and serve to warn like-minded others that it will not be tolerated.”

McKimm swiftly shut down a request from Nikirk’s lawyer that his client be given a few days to make arrangements before beginning her sentence.

“No. I have anguished about that. I have thought about that,” he said. “There is a child who will never have Christmas.”

RELATED: Driver guilty in Saanich crash that left 11-year-old with catastrophic brain injuries


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
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