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Drunk driver who killed Burnaby cyclist gets 30 months in prison

Charles Masala, a father of two young children, was killed beside Gaglardi Way on June 29, 2019

A man who killed a Burnaby cyclist while driving drunk — who fled the scene and then tried to blame an innocent person — will spend the next 30 months in prison.

Sumeet Mangat hit Charles Masala on Burnaby Mountain on June 29, 2019.

Mangat had a blood-alcohol level more than double the legal limit and originally tried to pin the accident on a co-worker who had been in the vehicle with him, Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Reginald Harris said at sentencing Feb. 15.

Mangat had pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

Harris called the situation a “cold, calculated disregard for the life of another human.”

“This case is tragic,” Harris said. “There is nothing this court can do to ease the grief of the family, friends and community by the loss of Mr. Masala.”

This wasn't the first time Mangat encountered police while allegedly driving drunk. He had a roadside prohibition in 2016 and was found to have a high blood alcohol level in 2018 when he struck a lamppost, Harris said.

“These failed to deter him,” the judge said.

Harris said the Zambian-born Masala was a pillar of the local community and in his native country. He had helped build a school and medical clinic there.

In a letter from the chief of Masala’s home village, Masala’s death was described as leaving the community “helpless, hopeless and stranded.”

“His death has left the community mourning over and over and over again,” the court heard.

Wife Michelle Masala told the court she feared there would be no one to show her daughter how to make sure she is treated correctly, no one who can “teach her son to be a Black man in today’s world.”

Masala, a 53-year-old engineer and father of two young children, had been cycling beside Gaglardi Way just after 1:20 p.m. when a Jeep Cherokee speeding up Burnaby Mountain entered the bike lane and hit him, according to an agreed statement of facts presented at an earlier sentencing hearing that Harris called “emotional.”

An RCMP collision analyst determined Masala had been “ladled onto the hood of the Jeep” and thrown about 43 metres after hitting the windshield, the statement said.  

“His death was instantaneous,” Harris said.

What happened?

Mangat, a car salesman at DriveCo Motors in Coquitlam at the time and the driver of the Jeep, had been arguing over text with a woman he was in a relationship with.

At 11:56 a.m., he had texted he was going to get “f***ed up.” He was seen drinking a Nude Vodka Soda at work that morning, the court heard.

Around 1 p.m., he left the car lot in the Jeep, which belonged to DriveCo, to get lunch with a co-worker.

At first, they headed to Lougheed Mall, then decided to try a new restaurant on Burnaby Mountain near Simon Fraser University.

As he came to the end of the long curve at the base of Burnaby Mountain, Mangat entered the bike lane going between 71 and 85 kilometres per hour and hit Masala.

“After the collision, Mr. Mangat initially slowed down but then sped up and continued up Burnaby Mountain,” read the statement.

Harris said Mangat fled the scene without disregard for the suffering he had left at the side of the road.

Two people on top of Burnaby Mountain who saw the Jeep, which had been “obviously severely damaged,” called 911. A security guard who had seen the crash site approached the Jeep and told Mangat and his co-worker they should go back.

Mangat told him to “bounce,” according to the statement of facts.

He was arrested shortly before 2 p.m.

Twice he told police he hadn’t been the one driving.

“He said that his buddy that he worked with was driving,” read the statement.

Harris called that cowardly.

Police found a 375-millilitre bottle of vodka, about two-thirds full, in the driver’s door pocket.

Parts of Masala’s bike were found on the vehicle, Harris said.

Mangat’s co-worker said he had found another mickey in the Jeep with about 25 millilitres missing from it. 

It took a year and a half for charges against Mangat to be approved.

Harris said Mangat has begun to turn his life around; he has stopped drinking and is going to counselling.

Mangat is prohibited from driving for 54 months after his release from prison. He was also ordered to provide a DNA sample.

With files from Cornelia Naylor

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

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