Driver charged in fatal hit-and-run testifies he thought he hit a curb

by Paige Parsons

A man facing hit and run charges in connection to a fatal crash with a motorcycle testified he thought he hit a curb or a pothole when he felt a 'bump' before driving away.

A driver on trial for an alleged hit-and-run that left a young woman dead told court he thought he'd struck a curb or a pothole when he drove away from the scene.

David Gershon Bookhalter, 63, is charged with failure to stop at the scene of an accident knowing bodily harm was caused and failure to stop at the scene of an accident knowing death was caused in connection to a collision with a motorcycle on May 11, 2015.

Court heard Thursday that Bookhalter admits the collision caused the death of Christina Shi-Jin Goh, 26, and injuries to her boyfriend Michael Liu, who testified earlier this week.

Taking the stand in his own defence Thursday, Bookhalter said on the evening of the crash, he was on his way home from a charity event at a golf course. He said he had consumed half a glass of wine, but was not impaired when he climbed into a silver four door Infiniti.

Under questioning from his lawyer, Kent Teskey, Bookhalter said he "can't explain" why he didn't see the oncoming motorcycle when he turned left at an intersection on 122 Street near the on ramp to Whitemud Drive. He said he suddenly felt and heard a "bump," and believed he had hit a pothole, curb or some other imperfection in the road.

After a delay of a few seconds, an airbag on the passenger side deployed, blocking his view out that side of the vehicle, he testified. He said he looked out his front window and rear view mirror, but didn't see anything.

On Monday, court heard witnesses at the scene rushed to aid Goh and Liu after they were thrown from the motorcycle.

Crown prosecutor John Baharustani questioned Bookhalter about the force of the impact, noting a curb is typically only 10 to 15 centimetres high.

"It was like my rear wheel going over a bump," Bookhalter said. He said his car seemed operational, so he decided to drive home.

Photos admitted as exhibits show the crushed passenger side rear door of Bookhalter's car, with damage stretching up to the window.

When he parked in his garage and walked around the vehicle and saw the damage, he said he was "stunned."

When police arrived at his house, Bookhalter showed them the damage. He was in the midst of filling out an accident report when the officers got a call and then told him he was being charged. When they told him a young woman had died in the crash, he said he walked into his bedroom and lay on the floor crying.

"I was just devastated," he said.

Both sides are expected to make closing arguments Friday.