Relatives mourning the hit-and-run death of an Abbotsford family patriarch were sadly disappointed when the driver responsible got a three-month conditional sentence on Wednesday.
Kenneth Howarth, 27, was sentenced in Abbotsford provincial court after pleading guilty to failing to stop at an accident that killed 80-year-old Bachan Gill at the crosswalk at Clearbook Road and Newcastle Drive on Sept. 30.
Balbir Gill, the victim's son, said a three-month curfew served in the home didn't send a strong enough message to prevent people from fleeing after hitting someone.
"I know [Howarth's] young, and we don't want to ruin his life, but the Crown asked for three months in jail," said Balbir.
"That's not enough for taking a life, but it deters people in the future."
The hardest part for the family is not knowing what happened in the last moments of their father, husband and grandfather's life or whether the outcome could have been different, he said.
"He left the scene," said Balbir.
"It's a critical moment when someone is hurt. It can mean life or death."
He said that while Howarth did turn himself into police, it was 24 hours after the accident - long enough for any alcohol to pass through his system.
Court heard no witnesses actually saw the senior being struck, but a number reported hearing a loud crash around 6:15 p.m. and seeing a truck leaving the area.
Gill was found moments later lying more than 20 metres from the crosswalk by passing motorists.
Howarth and his girlfriend exchanged a series of cell phone text messages immediately after the crash in which Howarth expressed feeling "scared and shaky."
His girlfriend responded saying she would drive by the crash scene, and he should take a different route home.
However, after talking to his mother the morning after Gill's death Howarth presented himself at the Abbotsford Police station along with his lawyer and voluntarily surrendered his driver's licence.
Crown counsel told court the police would likely not have resolved the case if Howarth had not turned himself in.
Judge Brent Hoy said Gill's death was a tragic event that had immeasurable impact for the family.
"Regardless of the sentence imposed, the pain and sorrow lingers," said Hoy.
Drivers have a duty to stop, identify themselves, and render assistance at a crash scene, the judge noted.
"It's not a complicated or onerous obligation," said Hoy.
However, Howarth had no criminal record, was extremely remorseful and had turned himself into police and entered a guilty plea, he said.
The Howarth family had also made a concerted gesture of sorrow to the Gills for the incident by providing funds for a plaque to be erected in the victim's name.
It wasn't likely Howarth would commit further criminal offences, and he did not pose a threat to society, said Hoy.
In addition to a three-month sentence involving a curfew between 5 p.m. to 9 a.m., Howarth was also handed a two-year driving ban.