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Jail term and driving prohibition for fatal Kelowna crash
Looking his victim’s widow in the eye in a Kelowna courtroom Monday, Mark Batraki apologized for causing a crash that took the life of Jules Kreeft.
“I’m terribly sorry for what happened. I wish there was more I could do,” Batraki told Vivian Kreeft. “I just want you to know I wish this never happened.”
Batraki, 38, pleaded guilty Monday to driving without due care and attention in relation the March 2012 crash that killed Jules and injured Vivian. They had been waiting for a red light on motorcycle when they were rear-ended.
Outside court, Vivian told reporters she didn’t hold any ill will against Batraki who has had trouble with the law since his parents died, one within a year of the other, when he was a teenager.
“We all make mistakes,” she said. “I just hope he can get some counselling. It’s got to be hard for him, losing his parents at a young age.”
And while Judge James Threlfall also accepted Batraki’s remorse, he said Batraki’s driving record prompted him to go against the suggested sentence of a $2,000 fine—the maximum—and a one year driving prohibition.
Threlfall said Batraki’s lengthy driving record, dating back to 1994, includes three dangerous driving convictions and four driving prohibitions, including one that stretched from March 2004 until two months before the fatal crash.
As well, Batraki was caught speeding three months after the crash that killed Kreeft, Threlfall noted before going against the sentence proposed by lawyers in the case.
Threlfall instead gave Batraki a $1,500 fine, a three month jail sentence—to be served after he completes his current jail sentence for an unrelated criminal offence—and a five year driving ban.
Kreeft’s son, Danny, clapped briefly after hearing the sentence.
“A little better, good to hear,” he said outside the courtroom.
Prior to the judge’s decision, Danny said the sentence proposed by lawyers in the case was a “slap on the wrist.”
While he forgives Batraki, he also wants Batraki to be punished for his actions and would like to see more significant charges for those involved in a fatal crash.
“Driving with undue care and attention, you get that for hitting a guy in a parking lot,” said Danny. “There’s lots of charges out there. Unfortunately, the driving act protects people against that kind of stuff.”
During sentencing, Threlfall noted it was the Crown’s decision to proceed with the Motor Vehicle Act charge, rather than a more serious charge related to the March 20, 2012 crash.
That afternoon, Jules and Vivian were on their Harley on Harvey Avenue, waiting at the red light at Cooper Road, when they were rammed from behind by a rented Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Batraki.
The force of the collision sent the motorcycle into the cube van stopped in front of the motorcycle.
After the crash, Batraki told police he had “looked down in his lap” and when he looked up, it was too late to stop, Threlfall noted.
He also told police: “It was my fault, I was not paying attention.”
During the sentencing hearing, defence lawyer Kelly Christensen said Batraki had performed two shoulder checks in anticipation of a lane change shortly before hitting the motorcycle.
Jules, 59, was fatally injured in the crash and Vivian’s injuries included two broken hips, four broken ribs and a torn lung. She says she has had one hip replaced and is awaiting a replacement of the other, and suffers from vertigo as a result of her injuries.
By Cheryl Wierda, Capital News contributor