Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 7, 2013

Judge: Canadian driver stays in Michigan

BY MATT TROUTMAN mtroutman@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A Canadian semi-truck driver charged in a Mayfield Township crash that left two dead can’t return to his home country before the case is resolved in Grand Traverse County court.

Kuldeep Singh Khangura, 28, of Markham, Ontario, was arraigned Tuesday in 86th District Court on two counts of a moving violation causing death, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. On Friday his semi-truck’s trailer drifted into the northbound lane of M-37 and struck a pickup truck occupied by Jeffery Mitchell Toole, 49, and Joel Willard Toole, 43, both of Thompsonville, who died in the collision.

Khangura plead not guilty and his attorney, Robert Whims, said the accident was a “sad situation.”

“My client is incredibly sorry about what occurred no matter the fault,” he said.

Eighty-sixth District Court Judge Thomas J. Phillips upheld bond conditions that Khangura surrender his passport and stay in Michigan until trial. Khangura is originally from India and a Punjabi translator participated in the arraignment over a telephone.

Whims argued Khangura should be allowed his passport so he could go back to work in Canada. He said his client already posted a $5,000 bond and retained legal counsel. He also said Khangura was unlikely to receive jail time even if convicted on the misdemeanors, but took the charges seriously and promised to return. Phillips said he wanted more of a guarantee.

“The problem with misdemeanors is we may not get him back from Canada,” he said. “Although they’re misdemeanors they involved deaths. They’re serious misdemeanors.”

Phillips did set a pretrial hearing for Thursday at 9 a.m at Whims’ request in order to speed up the court process.

Authorities believe Khangura did not use enough caution for wet road conditions as he took a sharp “S”-turn on M-37 near Center Road. Whims said he still awaited an accident report from the Grand Traverse County sheriff’s department that spelled out the basis for the charges.

“We’ve got to figure that out as soon as we reasonably can,” he said.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney said he was also waiting for the same report. He said he authorized charges after he spoke with the accident investigator and arresting officer.

“We certainly want to have a police report to provide to the defendant so they know what the allegation is about,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll have a basic report soon.”