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North Van driver pleads guilty in hit-and-run that injured teen

Amazingly, the victim’s family does not hold ill will against the driver.

The North Vancouver man charged in the hit-and-run that left a local teen with traumatic brain injuries has pleaded guilty.

On Jan. 25, 2021, Grace Haines was out for a run when a vehicle driven by Zachary Holt struck her at the intersection of Keith Road and St. Andrews Avenue. Holt fled the scene. North Vancouver RCMP arrested him later that night and in July 2021, the Crown charged Holt with leaving the scene of an accident causing bodily harm.

After first pleading not guilty in December of that year, Holt appeared in North Vancouver provincial court via video on Oct. 26 to enter a guilty plea.

The court has since ordered a pre-sentence report and psychiatric evaluation, which will be used by the judge to determine a fit penalty for Holt when he is sentenced in March 2023.

“I appreciate that he has finally taken ownership for what he’s done by entering a guilty plea,” said Chris Haines, Grace’s father. “It’s too bad that he made that choice but he did and nobody can go back and change that.”

Initially, Grace was left partially paralyzed from the collision. Her rehabilitation process set her back from starting university by a year, which was devastating for her, but through a lot of hard work, she has made remarkable progress, Haines said.

“Physically, she was doing better, but I think emotionally she was really struggling with being left behind and not being 100 per cent of who she was before,” he said. “But she showed great perseverance and she was able to start university this past fall.”

Grace still has lingering effects from the collision – headaches, short-term memory impacts, damage to an optic nerve that has left one eye permanently dilated, and damage to her vocal cords that will leave her with a raspy voice.

“But she’s resilient. She’s not letting those be excuses,” Haines said. “I’ve just been amazed by how strong she was and how much she bounced back.”

Throughout the ordeal, Haines said he still bears no ill will against Holt.

“Being angry at this person won’t heal her. It won’t help her. It won’t do anything,” he said.

When the sentence is handed down, Haines said he will likely attend but he isn’t hoping to see a judge throw the book at Holt.

“I don’t want to see somebody go to jail for a certain amount of time and make their life worse and put more stress on their family,” he said. “I hope that he’ll offer an apology of sorts to Grace. But more than anything, I hope that he’ll use this to turn his life around and to do some good in the world, as opposed to let this define him and continue making bad decisions.”

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