Brenda, second from right, and Dan Lavallee, sit with Harpreet Kharbanda, far right, and her two children, Risham, 9 and Japnoor, 15, along the Bow River on Nov. 28, 2015. The two families suffered major losses when their loved ones Jillian Lavallee and cab driver Amritpal Singh Kharbanda were killed by a drunk driver on May 2, 2015.

Monday would have been Jillian Lavallee’s 26th birthday and her father Dan Lavallee stayed home from work to mark the occasion. But there was to be no party for his beloved youngest daughter. She was killed in a car crash eight months ago.

Instead, Dan learned the young driver charged with causing her death and the death of taxi driver Amritpal Singh Kharbanda, 46, who was taking her home in the early hours of May 2, would be pleading guilty in connection with the double fatal collision.

Ali Alejandro Montoya, 20, was scheduled to face a two-week preliminary hearing starting this week, in order to determine if there was sufficient evidence to go to trial at Court of Queen’s Bench, but it was re-elected back to provincial court. The case was adjourned to Jan. 25 to set a date for disposition.

“We’re relieved. It took a little bit. We weren’t going to be attending a lot of the hearing because of the details that would be coming out,” Dan Lavallee said shortly after Montoya appeared briefly before provincial court Judge Mike Dinkel. “I have no intention of reliving her death. It’s too difficult.

“I understand he is pleading guilty to the highest charges. I hope it’s remorse and not simply a legal manoeuvre, but he is pleading guilty and that’s a good thing . . . we’ll definitely be there for the guilty plea, the victim impact statements and sentencing. It’s ironic. We’re going through a lot of firsts without her: Christmas, now her birthday and next the anniversary date of her death.”

Lawyer Alan Hepner, who was represented by Kelsey Sitar for the appearance with Montoya in person, said “a resolution is pending and discussions are ongoing” between him and Crown prosecutor Kevin Doyle. 

His client faces three counts each of criminal negligence and impaired driving — two for causing death and one for causing bodily harm — related to the crash.

Lavallee said it appeared to be a very strong case against Montoya, who struck the taxi as it was driving at 12th Ave. and Macleod Trail S.W. There is in-taxi video and surveillance video from the street and businesses.

As Kharbanda approached a green light, a white SUV was heading north on Macleod Trail, at what police would later describe as an excessive speed. The SUV went through a red light, ramming into a Honda Civic and seriously injuring its 64-year-old driver; then broadsided the taxi containing Kharbanda and Jillian Lavallee.

Kharbanda died at the scene. His passenger died 12 hours later in hospital with friends and family, including Dan, wife Brenda and eldest daughter Caitlin, at her side.

“It’s been a tough eight months, no denying it,” said Dan Lavallee. “We’ve been to counselling and we have our faith in church.

“I don’t want to sound righteous or pious, but my wife and I talked about it. Our view, all our lives as Christians and talking to the girls, was to forgive. You can’t believe it (and) then back away when something happens. I hope 10 years from now you’re writing about his redemption as an example to others. He made a mistake . . . I can’t steer towards hate or revenge. I hope we get justice and he can recover and be part of society.”

Lavallee also hopes somebody in government “picks up the ball” and does something to curb the number of preventable road deaths, such as that of Jillian and her cab driver.

The biggest challenge, he says, is getting the message to “hot-blooded” young drivers such as Montoya to make them look at the potential consequences of their actions. He says some way of making them prove they are sober before getting behind the wheel would be a step in the right direction.

Through daughter Caitlin’s employer, Charitable Impact Foundation, a funding page was set up with West Springs Free Methodist Church, the charity assigned to disperse the funds.

The first $5,000 went to advocacy organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), with the remainder set aside to help the Kharbanda children Harpreet, Japnoor and Rishan.

The Lavallees are also setting up a scholarship at Trinity Western University in honour of Jillian — raising money through CHIMP — with a Calgary fundraiser planned for March 5 at Pinebrook Golf Club, where Caitlin got married.

They also pledge to continue to support the Kharbanda family in any way they can, not just for the early stages of grief and the upcoming court process — a choice, says their eldest child, that has benefited both families.

“A lot of people might say ‘get over it,'” says Lavallee. “I say we will get through it, we won’t get over it.”

Source: Calgary Herald


Last updated on: 2016-02-01 | Link to this post