A B.C. woman who was texting and speeding when she struck an 11-year-old girl with her car has been sentenced to two years in prison.
Tenessa Rayann Lyric Nikirk, 24, was found guilty earlier this year of dangerous driving causing bodily harm in connection with the Dec. 20, 2017 crash that left young Leila Bui with severe brain damage, a broken neck and a lacerated spleen.
Bui was on a marked crosswalk in Saanich on southern Vancouver Island when Nikirk hit her. The trial heard that Nikirk sent 11 text messages in the 15 minutes before the crash while driving at speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour — double the local speed limit.
In a decision handed down Monday, Provincial Court Judge Mayland McKimm said Nikirk’s sentence needed to make it clear to other drivers that distracted driving poses “a very serious risk” to others and comes with serious legal consequences.
“The injuries this behaviour has inflicted on the victim and her family [are] catastrophic and permanent,” McKimm said.
“While she did not cause a death, the most sacred of human values, she caused harm one small step short of that. She has destroyed an innocent human being’s life forever.”
The judge described Nikirk’s offence as “one small step short” of street racing.
“When one considers the responsibility of the offender together with the serious and life-altering injury sustained by the innocent victim, I consider the moral blameworthiness of this offense and this offender very high end or range,” McKimm said.
According to the judge’s decision, Bui remains in a vegetative state. McKimm described the right hemisphere of her brain as “completely destroyed” and the left as “seriously compromised.”
In a victim impact statement provided for the court, Bui’s mother Kairry Nguyen said, “I have cried more in the last 2+ years than I have in my entire life combined and the tears keep coming.”
Nguyen said she’s watched her daughter’s friends grow into teenagers and begin high school, but Bui “has been cheated of all of that.”
On top of her federal prison sentence, Nikirk will be suspended from driving for three years when she is released.