Tuan Bui and Kairry Nguyen, parents of Leila Bui, speak outside the courtroom after the woman who hit their daughter in a Saanich crosswalk in 2017 was sentenced to two years in prison. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Tuan Bui and Kairry Nguyen, parents of Leila Bui, speak outside the courtroom after the woman who hit their daughter in a Saanich crosswalk in 2017 was sentenced to two years in prison. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Distracted driver who hit girl in crosswalk will spend Christmas behind bars

Woman who left Saanich’s Leila Bui with catastrophic brain injuries sentenced to two years in prison

Three years and one day since Saanich girl Leila Bui was struck in a crosswalk and left with catastrophic brain injuries, the driver who hit her was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

On Monday morning Tenessa Nikirk, 27, sat behind her lawyer and dabbed at her eyes as Provincial Court Judge Mayland McKimm read through the facts of the case.

On Dec. 20, 2017, Leila, then 11, was walking to school when she was struck by a Mercedes SUV driven by Nikirk while in a crosswalk on Ash Road at Torquay Drive. Leila was thrown several metres.

It was later found that Nikirk was driving erratically and had sent and received several texts in the moments before she struck Leila.

The child was kept in an induced coma for several weeks after the crash and has since remained in a non-responsive state, requiring constant care. In his decision, McKimm detailed the extent of Leila’s injuries, telling the court that the right side of Leila’s brain is entirely destroyed and the left side is seriously compromised.

Leila Bui remains in an unresponsive state more than two years since she was struck in a Saanich crosswalk. The now 13-year-old was in court when a guilty verdict was read for Tenessa Nikirk, the woman who struck her. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

RELATED: Lawyer says SUV that hit Leila Bui was going 53 km/h at point of impact

“Three years later, she remains in a vegetative state,” he said. “While she can generally breathe on her own she regularly requires the assistance of medical devices that are attached to a permanent trachea tube. She is non-responsive.

“The family of this child has been forever damaged by the accused’s criminal behavior.”

In January, Nikirk was convicted of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Her two-year sentence will be followed by a three-year driving ban.

Huddled beneath an umbrella outside the courtroom, Leila’s parents said the sentence brings some relief.

“The only good thing that came out of this is this sentencing,” said Kairry Nguyen, Leila’s mother. “We want to teach … the next person that gets into a car and thinks about texting or speeding [to know] this is what can happen.”

Nguyen said the family is focusing on the time they have with Leila.

“As long as she’s with us, and she’s healthy and we’re advocating for all her needs … just to have her with us – it’s the most important thing.”

Tuan Bui, Leila’s father, applauds the judge’s decision.

“We’re glad that it’s over,” he said. “It’s finally over. And now we focus on the remedies for Leila that so that she can have a quality life going forward.”

In his decision, McKimm noted that Nikirk has shown remorse and volunteered restorative justice – factors he said he considered in his sentence. The maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing bodily harm is 10 years.

“Driving is a privilege that can wreak great havoc when it is exercised recklessly,” he said. “Accordingly, sentences for dangerous driving must unambiguously express society’s condemnation of the conduct and serve to warn like-minded others that it will not be tolerated.”

McKimm swiftly shut down a request from Nikirk’s lawyer that his client be given a few days to make arrangements before beginning her sentence.

“No. I have anguished about that. I have thought about that,” he said. “There is a child who will never have Christmas.”

RELATED: Driver guilty in Saanich crash that left 11-year-old with catastrophic brain injuries


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

car crashCrime

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Town of Qualicum Beach plans to establish temporary shelters. (Town of Qualicum Beach illustration)
Town of Qualicum Beach seeks $1.25M grant to build temporary housing units

Aim is to move tenants in prior to the end of 2021

Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association and its Nanaimo-Ladysmith counterpart seek stricter COVID-19 rules. (PQB News file photo)
Mount Arrowsmith teachers’ union asks health authority for stricter COVID-19 measures

Teachers ask for vaccine, more online learning, mask mandate for primary students

Dashwood Volunteer Fire Department emergency response vehicle. (PQB News file photo)
Dashwood fire department issues warning to residents to hold off on yard debris burning

Fire chief: ‘Hold off on burning until we get some rain’

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Vandals strike in Parksville, prowler lurks in Nanoose Bay

Oceanside RCMP receive 276 complaints in one-week period

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

The city asking the public if they want to pursue legal action against the province and their decision to override the city on the Victory Church issue. (Jesse Day Western News)
Penticton ready to sue province over homeless shelter

City council voted unanimously to authorize legal action

Most Read