A British Columbia woman who was texting and speeding when she hit an 11-year-old girl with her car was sentenced to two years in prison.
Lt. Rayann Lyric Nikirk, 24, was found guilty earlier this year for driving dangerously causing bodily harm in connection with the December 20, 2017 accident that left young Leila Bui with severe brain damage, a broken neck and a lacerated spleen.
Bui was on a marked crosswalk in Saanich, south of Vancouver Island, when Nikirk hit her. The judgment heard that Nikirk sent 11 text messages 15 minutes before the accident while driving at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour – twice the local speed limit.
In a decision handed down on Monday, Provincial Court Judge Mayland McKimm said Nikirk’s sentence needed to make it clear to other drivers that distracted driving represents “a very serious risk” for others and has serious legal consequences.
“The injuries that this behavior inflicted on the victim and his family [are] catastrophic and permanent, ” McKimm said.
“Although she did not cause death, the most sacred of human values, she did damage a small step before that. She destroyed the life of an innocent human being forever.”
The judge described Nikirk’s offense as “a small step ahead” of street racing.
“When considering the offender’s responsibility along with the serious and life-altering injury suffered by the innocent victim, I consider the moral culpability of this offense and this high-level or outrageous offender,” said McKimm.
According to the judge’s decision, Bui remains in a vegetative state. McKimm described the right hemisphere of his brain as “completely destroyed” and the left as “seriously compromised”.
In a statement on the impact of the victim provided to the court, Bui’s mother, Kairry Nguyen, said: “I have cried more in the past 2 years or more than in my entire combined life and the tears keep coming.”
Nguyen said she saw her daughter’s friends become teenagers and enter high school, but Bui “was deceived by all of this”.
In addition to her federal prison sentence, Nikirk will be suspended from driving for three years when she is released.