Driver sentenced to 9 years for 2020 crash that killed 3

The Ontario man who drove his sportscar into a south Edmonton Starbucks, killing all three of his passengers, was sentenced to nine years in prison on Friday.

Oscar Benjumea, 27, pleaded guilty in May to three counts of dangerous driving causing death in the July 3, 2020 crash, as well as to a fourth count of failing to stop at an accident involving death.

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn sentenced Benjumea to 7 1/2 years for the deaths as well as a further 18 months, to be served consecutively, for leaving the scene of the collision.

“Mr. Benjumea’s case includes three deaths and dangerousness that approaches the most serious imaginable and accordingly attracts the highest level of moral blameworthiness,” he ruled.

Michalyshyn cited how Benjumea was nine months into a year-long driving ban at the time of the crash, as well as his consumption of alcohol prior to driving as aggravating factors in sentencing.

He also rejected Benjumea’s assertion that a head injury sustained in the crash prevented him from fully understanding what he had done.

“His post-offence conduct speaks to his guilty mind,” Michalyshyn ruled. “He was well aware of the calamity he caused yet he acted in furtherance of his own self-interest.”

Michalyshyn said Benjumea was a “good candidate” for rehabilitation, noting his relatively young age as well as his guilty pleas as mitigating factors.

'A PATENTLY DANGEROUS MANNER'

At the sentencing hearing last December, Crown prosecutors argued for 12-year sentences for each death to be served concurrently, along with one year for failing to stop, resulting in a potential 13-year sentence.

“As the driver, Mr. Benjumea ought to have exercised a duty of care towards his passengers,” Crown prosecutor Kate Andress said.

“Instead, he drove in a patently dangerous manner which put the lives of everyone around him at risk, and unfortunately, but predictably, killed all of his passengers when he caused a catastrophic collision.”

Defence lawyer Dino Bottos argued for a sentence of four years for each of the three deaths to be served concurrently as well as an additional term of one to two years for failing to remain at the scene of an accident.

Court must be careful not to impose a sentence that might make some members of the public feel that their desire for vengeance has been satisfied,” Bottos said, noting no sentence would lessen the anguish of the victims’ families.

"We understand that some members of the public would like you to lock Mr. Benjumea up and throw away the key ... however that is not how we sentence offenders in Canada."

'SO FAST MY VEHICLE SHOOK'

According to an agreed statement of facts, Benjumea was driving his 2018 Audi R S5 at a speed of up to 193 km/h in an area with a posted speed limit of 60 km/h after leaving a Whyte Avenue club with the three others after 2 a.m.

A witness told investigators the Audi was travelling "so fast my vehicle shook when he drove by us" as he drove south on Calgary Trail.

Benjumea lost control of the vehicle, hitting a curb and sending the vehicle airborne before it slid across a grassy area and slammed into the Starbucks near 55 Avenue.

His passengers were all killed in the crash: 21-year-old Georgia Donovan, 20-year-old Emma Macarthur, and 32-year-old Faisal Yousef.

The impact sheared off the passenger side of the vehicle as well as the roof and parts of the hood, leaving the engine exposed.

A 911 call played in court from a witness who pulled Benjumea from the wreckage described an injured, disoriented and suicidal Benjumea wandering around the crash site.

Court also saw surveillance video showing the Audi crash into the Starbucks before Benjumea fled the area by making his way through parking lots of several businesses along Calgary Trail.

He was arrested 10 hours later at his home in southwest Edmonton and taken to hospital with cuts, a fractured arm, and broken fingers.

Benjumea is also banned from driving for 10 years from the date of his release and was ordered to provide a DNA sample. 

He has about 6 1/2 years remaining to be served after credit for time already spent in custody.