Uber driver pleads guilty to reduced charge in death of passenger

By BETSY POWELLCourts Reporter

Thu., Oct. 25, 2018

An Uber driver, whose “poor judgment” resulted in the death of a passenger, pleaded guilty Thursday to a reduced Highway Traffic Act charge of careless driving, much to the disappointment and derision of the victim’s family.

Abdihared Bishar Mussa, 23, was facing four Criminal Code charges, including dangerous driving causing death, in the March 21, 2018 crash that killed Nicholas Cameron, who was 28.

It was Mussa’s second day driving for the online platform when he accepted a fare from Cameron and his girlfriend, Monika Traikov, to take them to Pearson International Airport. After the couple climbed into the back seat of his 2012 Hyundai, Mussa inadvertently headed eastbound on the Gardiner Expressway — in the opposite direction of the airport, Crown attorney Michael Coristine said reading an agreed statement of facts.

While travelling westbound on the Gardiner, Mussa’s phone/GPS fell from its mount onto the floor of the vehicle. He stopped the car on the shoulder, just west of Park Lawn Road, but it was “at least partially, still in the live right lane,” Coristine said.

After reattaching the phone to the mount, he very slowly attempted to pull back on the highway when a black BMW sedan struck the back corner at a high rate of speed. “Due to the force and precise location of the impact from the initial collision, Mr. Cameron, who was seated directly behind the driver’s seat, suffered a catastrophic neck injury.” He died the next day in hospital. Traikov suffered a concussion and other minor injuries and was treated and released.

The driver of the BMW acknowledged to police he had taken his eyes off the road for a second to check the time on his phone.

Explaining why the prosecution had accepted the plea, Coristine told court while Mussa exercised “poor judgment with extremely tragic, unimaginable consequences,” his actions weren’t criminal.

“He did not set out to injure anyone that night,” Coristine said. He is asking for the maximum $2,000 fine, one-year driving prohibition — Mussa has already been without a driver’s licence for seven months — and one year probation when he must complete driver training.

An “exceptionally aggravating factor” was that Mussa was operating a commercial vehicle, the prosecutor said.

Defence lawyer David Parry is asking for a $400 fine, one year probation and mandatory driver training before his licence is reinstated.Cameron’s family and friends who packed the small Finch Avenue West courtroom shook their heads and sobbed throughout the proceedings.

I am “horified” by this “pathetic slap on the wrist,” Cameron’s sister Rachel told court reading from her victim impact statement.

Their mother, Cheryl Hawkes, urged Mussa to take responsibility for his actions, just as her son did when he was alive. She, too, expressed disgust at what has transpired since her youngest son was killed, which has “ruined my life … as I knew it.”

“In the end, responsibility for Nick’s death has been left on the side of the road and no one wants to touch it.”

Cameron’s brother-in-law, Jason Burns, urged Mussa to “go public” and join the family’s pursuit “and tell Uber and Toronto why they need to reinstate driver training.”

“Tell them there will be another Nick,” he said in court.

Cameron’s older brother Patrick told Mussa he hopes he will do something positive with his life, “to make up for the life that you took.”

Ontario Court Justice Paul Robertson reserved his sentencing decision to Dec. 4.

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/10/25/uber-driver-pleads-guilty-to-reduced-charge-in-death-of-passenger.html