Ontario trucker sentenced for careless driving in fatal collision near Falcon Lake

A semi-truck driver from Ontario has been sentenced under the Highway Traffic Act for his role in a fatal collision three years ago on the Trans-Canada Highway near Falcon Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park.

Mark Lugli, 54, and Jacob Lugli, 17, a father and son from Dryden, Ont. were on their way to a golf tournament in Selkirk, Man. when they were killed in a head-on crash on July 21, 2019, at the turnoff onto Barren Lake Road.

The crash prompted renewed calls to twin the 17-kilometre section of highway that remains undivided which the Manitoba government announced in September it plans to do.

The truck driver, Abhinav Abhinav, who court heard was 22-years-old at the time of the collision, received a $3,000 fine and a four-month driving ban after pleading guilty to careless driving causing death.

The maximum penalties for the offence are $5,000, a five-year driving ban and a maximum of two years jail time but the Crown was not seeking a custodial sentence.

Court heard Mark and Jacob were heading westbound on the Trans-Canada while Abhinav, who had been on the job for a few months at the time, was heading eastbound with a load from Headingley into Ontario.

Inderjit Singh, the Crown attorney on the case, told the court dashcam video from inside his truck captured Abhinav travelling at a steady rate of speed of around 105 km/h in a 100 km/h zone.

Video, that according to the Crown, also shows his semi gaining ground on two vehicles in front of him.

“There doesn’t appear to be any dramatic change (in speed) or braking,” Singh told the court. “At this point, it’s unclear why he didn’t reduce his speed.”

“In this case, Mr. Abhinav wasn’t doing anything overtly dangerous.”

Singh told the court the two vehicles in front of him then came to stop at the turnoff to Barren Lake, with the lead car attempting to make a left turn onto the gravel road.

“The turn that she was making was a left turn but it wasn’t an expected turn,” Singh told the court.

Abhinav applied the brakes and veered left to avoid a rear-end collision with the vehicles in front of him, colliding head-on with the vehicle Mark and Jacob were in which was heading in the opposite direction.

Court did not hear any details on how much sooner Abhinav would’ve needed to stop in order to avoid a collision.

“These are circumstances which are not wholly attributable to the driver, Mr. Abhinav,” Marty Minuk, Abhinav’s lawyer, told the court.

In imposing the sentence, Manitoba Provincial Court Judge Mary Kate Harvie acknowledged family members may leave feeling unsatisfied.

Harvie told the court the offence is one that can be committed in a variety of ways.

“He should’ve reacted and he didn’t,” Harvie told the court. “And in failing to do so he’s admitted to committing this offence.”

Harvie noted there’s a higher level of responsibility as Abhinav, although a relatively new driver, was a trained professional driving a large truck.

Lynn Konkle, who’s Mark’s wife and Jacob’s mom, along with Zack and Alex Lugli, Mark’s sons and Jacob’s brothers and Gabby Lugli, who’s Jacob’s twin sister and Mark’s daughter, flew in from their home in Ottawa to attend the sentencing hearing. Five family friends were also in attendance and around 10 people joined the proceedings virtually because they couldn’t attend in person.

In her victim impact statement, Konkle recalled recently driving for the first time by a weathered memorial along the highway where the crash occurred and placing fresh flowers beside it.

Konkle told the court she stayed behind the day of the collision to prepare for an upcoming camping trip, one the family never got to take.

“That day will forever be etched in my mind and my heart,” Konkle told the court.

She described meeting her future husband Mark, who later became a beloved school principal in Dryden, Ont., at university and starting a family together.

Konkle remembers saying goodbye to Mark and Jacob the day they left for the golf tournament and how Jacob had told people, “I love my mom,” as he crossed the stage during his recent graduation from high school.

“I will never know all the greatness Jacob would’ve contributed to this world,” Konkle said of her son, who was remembered as a star athlete in golf and a leader on his hockey teams.

Zack recalled being flown by helicopter from Red Lake, Ont. where he was fighting forest fires because there was a family emergency. That’s all he knew until he arrived home in Dryden where he was given the news his brother and dad had been killed.

“Singlehandedly, the most traumatic experience of my life,” Zack told the court, sharing how he’d spoken on the phone with his dad the day before the collision. He said his father helped him overcome challenges he was encountering fighting fires.

“He was such a positive, happy-go-lucky man with a heart of gold,” Zack said of his dad.

During his victim impact statement, Alex told the court his brother Jacob was a high achiever, who treated teammates and opponents in sport with respect, and his dad was his rock.

He told the court the grieving his family is doing will continue for the rest of their lives.

“The fact that this occurred was senseless,” Alex told the court, before addressing the driver.

“My heart knows that you did not intend to kill two people. Human beings make mistakes but the hard reality is no ruling here today will ever bring back my dad or my brother.” 

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