Security video shows car speeding toward group of taxi drivers at airport

Security video shows car speeding toward group of taxi drivers at airport

By Louise Dickson, June 14, 2012 6:30 AM

Taxi driver Ramesh Sharma was killed in the July 29, 2011 crash. The car is speeding toward drivers at upper right of photo.

Photograph by: Victoria International Airport security video, B.C. provincial court evidence


Camera 1 shows the car slowly entering the parking lot and picking up speed after turning

Camera 2 shows the car speeding across an airport road and mounting a curb

Camera 3 shows the speeding car in the distance, in the upper left of the screen

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A provincial court judge has released video of an accident at Victoria International Airport last year in which taxi driver Ramesh Sharma died and seven other cabbies were injured.

The videos were played Tuesday at the sentencing hearing of Saanich resident Shirley Zerbin. The 82-year-old pleaded guilty to a charge under the Motor Vehicle Act of driving without due care and attention. Victoria provincial court Judge Evan Blake fined Zerbin $1,500 and imposed a three-year driving prohibition.

On Wednesday, Blake granted an application to release the videos to the media. The videos are not graphic and are taken from some distance.

During the sentencing hearing, Crown prosecutor Kimberly Henders Miller told the court Zerbin simply mistook the gas pedal for the brake.

The court heard that on July 29, 2011, Zerbin was a properly licensed driver who had received only one speeding ticket in her 65-year driving history.

That morning, Zerbin, who had served in the military and worked as a secretary at the Yarrow Shipyards, drove to the airport to pick up a friend in her white 1990 Pontiac Sunbird. It was a longer trip than she had made in the previous four years, Henders Miller said.

Changes to the traffic pattern flustered Zerbin. She missed the interchange at McTavish Road and ended up in Sidney. She got lost in a series of roundabouts and had to get directions at a gas station.

The video footage shows Zerbin’s car entering the short-term parking lot and making a very slow left turn. The car begins to accelerate from five to 30 kilometres an hour as it heads diagonally across the parking lot. The car jumps the curb and crosses Electra Boulevard. It continues to accelerate to about 78 kilometres an hour and jumps up on the other curb.

The car hits a concrete picnic table where the taxi drivers were relaxing over a game of cards. The table was completely demolished. The car hits a taxi, ran over two baggage carts and hit a concrete barrier at the security building.

The incident lasted 19 seconds.

Defence lawyer Dan Murphy told the court his client recalled turning left and pushing the brake to slow down, but the car started to accelerate.

“She was terrified and panic-stricken and doesn’t remember a great deal after that,” Murphy said.

In her statement to police, Zerbin said: “I must have put my foot on the gas pedal because that’s when the car leaped … I knew I was trying to find the brake, but I couldn’t find the brake, I just don’t know why.”

In her attempt to slow down, Zerbin pushed as hard as she could, accelerating the car out of control, Murphy said.

Zerbin intended no wrong and knows the suffering and loss of life is tragic and terrible, Murphy said. She had seen her doctor four times in early 2011 and there was no medical reason why she could not drive.

“She will never again apply for a licence. She will never again drive,” Murphy said.

Zerbin was injured in the crash. Her ankle was badly broken and she spent four months in hospital.

The elderly woman apologized, saying she was very sorry for the hurt she caused, especially to Sharma’s wife and his children. His two youngest children Sanjeev, 23, and Sabina, 18, were present in court Tuesday.

ldickson © Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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