News / Toronto

Charges against TTC driver who ran over teen dismissed

Dhanbir Shergill was charged with dangerous driving and failure to remain after he drove away from the scene.

Amaria Diljohn-Williams was 14 when she was struck and killed by a TTC bus driver who was turning right on a red light days before Christmas in 2014.

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Amaria Diljohn-Williams was 14 when she was struck and killed by a TTC bus driver who was turning right on a red light days before Christmas in 2014.

A TTC bus driver who ran over a 14-year-old girl and left the scene is no longer facing criminal charges.

Dhanbir Shergill was charged in March 2015 with dangerous driving and failing to remain at the scene of an accident in connection with the death of Amaria Diljohn-Williams.

The teenager was killed on Dec. 19, 2014 when she was hit by the bus Shergill was driving at the intersection of Finch Ave. E. and Neilson Rd.

The death of the young girl days before Christmas devastated her family and stunned the local community two years ago.

This spring, a judge with the Ontario Court of Justice determined Shergill should not stand trial on the charges, ruling that no reasonable jury would convict him based on the evidence the Crown presented.

In his June 13 decision, Justice Aston J. Hall acknowledged that the case was “a sad and painful” one due to the age of the victim. The day of the accident, Diljohn-Williams had visited the mall after school and was riding the Neilson 133 bus home. She got off at the stop just south of Finch Ave. E., and walked north toward the intersection.

According to the ruling, Shergill also travelled north and stopped at a red light at the intersection before turning right. Diljohn-Williams stepped into the street as the driver turned. The bus ran her over and she was killed.

According to police, Shergill didn’t stop the bus but turned himself in to police soon afterward.

At a two-day preliminary inquiry in February, Shergill’s attorney, Alan Risen, argued that there was no evidence his client was driving dangerously or that he was even aware an accident had occurred.

Crown attorney Paul Kelly argued there was enough evidence to convict Shergill. Kelly highlighted footage from surveillance cameras on the bus that showed the vehicle hitting “two bumps,” which likely occurred when the vehicle ran over Diljohn-Williams.

Lead police investigator Sergeant Thomas Reimer testified that “the bumps were so severe that it impacted a number of passengers,” including a female rider who “had her hair lifted from its original position” as a result.

But under cross-examination from Shergill’s lawyer, Reimer acknowledged that the female passenger didn’t seem alarmed by the bumps, and nor did anyone else on the bus. One man who was on board testified that he felt a “thump” but at the time he didn’t think it was “significant.”

Reimer also agreed with Risen that there was no evidence Shergill was speeding or had ignored traffic signals at the time of the accident, and that he was driving the bus properly in its designated lane. The officer concurred that from the video, it appeared that Diljohn-Williams didn’t look up at the bus as she walked in front of it and that it took just 1.3 seconds for her to step off the curb and into the path of the vehicle.

Police accident reconstructionist Det. Const. Tommy Vuong testified that the bus was travelling at a speed of less than 13 km/h, and “had (Shergill) been looking to his right he would have been able to stop the bus and avoid the accident.”

Justice Hall determined that the Crown’s evidence was “insufficient” to support the conclusion that Shergill’s driving showed a “marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exhibited in the circumstances,” which is the legal test for a dangerous driving charge.

And because there was no evidence Shergill knew he had hit Diljohn-Williams, there was insufficient grounds to try him on charges of failing to remain at the scene, the judge wrote.

“On the evidence before me, the accused was driving quite normally and appropriately before the accident,” Hall wrote.

“After the accident, the accused continued to drive the bus in the same manner he did prior to the accident. In other words the driving was normal. There was no evidence before me to suggest the accused was aware that he had earlier struck, and ran the bus over, Ms. Diljohn-Williams.”

Through his lawyer, Shergill declined to speak to Torstar News Service because he is still facing non-criminal charges under the Highway Traffic Act of careless driving and failing to remain at the scene. The Crown’s office also said it would be inappropriate to comment on those charges while the matter was before the court.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said that Shergill hasn’t been employed by the transit agency since soon after the accident.

Ross wouldn’t confirm whether Shergill was fired, but told Torstar that the transit commission believes Diljohn-Williams’ “tragic death” was “preventable.”

“The TTC does not rely on police charges or decisions made by the courts for the action it takes as an employer,” he said.

Shergill’s lawyer disputed the TTC’s account. “The evidence that was presented at the preliminary hearing did not indicate that the death was preventable, and in fact indicated that there was nothing wrong with the driving of Mr. Shergill,” said Risen.

Risen said the accident and its aftermath have been “very hard” on his client.

“It’s very traumatic for anybody to find out that a young girl tragically had walked out in front of the bus and got killed,” he said. “And he has a great deal of sympathy for her family, and it’s also impacted him and his family, and his ability to work and support his family. So it’s had very serious consequences on both sides that are very unfortunate under all the circumstances.”

Members of Diljohn-Williams’ family didn’t return messages seeking comment for this story.