Kevin Carthy remembers his friend Faisal Yousef as the kind of guy who could light up a room, whose charisma could make a stranger feel like they were in the presence of an old, trusted friend. He was relentlessly positive, and had big dreams for himself and his friends.
“Five minutes with Faisal and you could kick any lingering self-doubt to the curb,” Carthy told an Edmonton courtroom Monday.
On July 3, 2020, Yousef and two others — Emma MacArthur and Georgia Donovan — were killed when Oscar Fabian Benjumea unintentionally slammed his speeding sports car into an empty Starbucks on Calgary Trail.
Monday was the start of a lengthy sentencing hearing for the 27-year-old, who pleaded guilty on May 7 to three counts of dangerous driving causing death and a single count of failure to stop at the scene of a deadly accident.
He initially faced a total of seven charges.
More than 50 people are expected to give victim impact statements during the hearing, which is set to conclude in December after a break.
Neither the Crown nor the defence have made public their recommended sentences. Dangerous driving causing death carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
The crash happened around 2:18 a.m. on July 3, 2020. According to an agreed statement of facts, Benjumea was speeding along Calgary Trail when he lost control of his Audi RS5. The car slid off the road, struck a curb and flew through the air, eventually smashing into the side of the Starbucks at 55 Avenue. At the time the car left the road, it was travelling 186 km/h in a 60 km/h zone.
All three of Benjumea’s passengers were killed instantly. Benjumea survived and was pulled from the wreckage. Instead of remaining at the scene, however, he walked to his home in southwest Edmonton, where police arrested him 10 hours later.
Faisal Yousef was the eldest of six siblings. He had just turned 32.
His mother, Fadumo Said, described him as the “glue” that held their family together.
“He was my son, my friend and my support system,” she said in a statement read by a court official. “I am no longer the person I used to be.”
She added: “Never in a million years could I imagine the horrors that transpired that night.”
Faisa Yousef said the crash left her without a brother and her son without an uncle. She said Faisal was a huge basketball fan and looked forward to teaching his nephew about the game and his favourite team, the Toronto Raptors.
She said Benjumea’s actions “showed a complete disregard for human life and the safety of others.”
MacArthur was 20 years old. An aunt described her as “always kind and thoughtful and with a zest for life.” She leaves behind her parents and a younger brother, in addition to other family and friends.
MacArthur’s aunt told the other families: “This void in our life will never go away, and the grief I feel for myself, I feel for all of you.”
Donovan’s friends and family are expected to begin giving their statements Tuesday, when the hearing is scheduled to conclude. Justice Peter Michalyshyn is expected to give his decision in December.
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