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Sole survivor of deadly crash in intensive care

Police investigate the aftermath of a fatal car crash at the intersection of 176th Street and 32nd Avenue in Surrey, B.C. on Sunday, April 28, 2013. RCMP in British Columbia say five people are dead after a serious crash near the U.S border.

ERIC DREGER/THE CANADIANS PRESS

Due to his injuries, police investigators have yet to be able to question the driver of a minivan suspected of running a red light and killing five people – three generations of the same family – in Surrey last weekend.

RCMP Corporal Bert Paquet of the Surrey detachment said Tuesday that the 46-year-old Langley man is in stable condition in an intensive care unit. Police have not made his name public.

"Our investigators have not spoken with him yet due to heavy sedation," Cpl. Paquet said in an e-mail exchange.

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At about 11 a.m. on April. 28, police allege the minivan driver failed to stop for a red light and collided with a car driven by Pawandeep Arjot, 31, who was carrying four passengers.

They were her two children – five-year-old Annish Sachdeva and three-year-old Jessica Sachdeva – as well as her 47-year-old sister-in-law, Neelam Dhingra, and 68-year-old mother-in-law, Vidya Sachdeva.

All five occupants of the car died at the scene – an accident that has stunned the community and horrified emergency responders. Media reports suggest the occupants of the car were leaving a prayer service when the accident occurred. The father of the children, Ms. Arjot's husband, is said to be the owner of a sweets store.

"Certainly it is a tragedy for any community when we have three generations that have lost their lives," Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said in an interivew Tuesday. "It is a significant loss."

Ms. Watts says the city is working through several measures related to the accident, including talks with the provincial Ministry of Transportation about installing cameras in challenging intersections in the area to deter high speeds and running red lights.

"I live along that stretch not too far from the accident, and I have witnessed myself trucks coming from the border and coming so fast down that hill, they just blow the red light," she said. "They can't stop and they have got their horns going. It is problematic."

The B.C. Coroners Service identified the victims on Tuesday in a statement but is basically now leaving the field to police.

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"We're holding back," said spokeswoman Barb McLintock. "Aside from confirming the identity and doing all the necessary stuff around that and getting the bodies released, we're holding back a bit because we're letting the RCMP take the lead in terms of investigating the crash."

She said the coroners office also wants to see if police are intent on recommending criminal charges to the Crown. Police had not mentioned a time line for their investigation, she said. "Basically we let them take as long as they need."

Ms. McLintock said there will be a coroners report on the case, but there could also be a review on any number of aspects of the matter, leading to recommendations. "It's such a tragic case. If there's anything of a systemic nature, I am sure we would be looking at it," she said, referring to possible engineering changes on highways.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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