Man who intentionally plunged car into Fraser River with girlfriend inside escapes jail time

·3 min read
Hua Feng was sentenced Tuesday in Vancouver provincial court for dangerous driving. (Cliff MacArthur/provincialcourt.bc.ca - image credit)
Hua Feng was sentenced Tuesday in Vancouver provincial court for dangerous driving. (Cliff MacArthur/provincialcourt.bc.ca - image credit)

A B.C. man who deliberately crashed his car into the Fraser River with his then-girlfriend in the passenger seat has been given a two-month conditional sentence for dangerous driving.

Hua Feng, 37, sent his car plunging into the river at the foot of Fraser Street in Vancouver on Sept. 17, 2019, during an argument with the woman he was dating at the time, according to a provincial court sentencing decision.

The couple began arguing after they spent an unsuccessful day driving around the city trying to borrow money from friends, Judge Reginald Harris said in his reasons for sentence, handed down Tuesday.

According to Harris, the girlfriend told Feng "she did not want to live this way and she told Mr. Feng that he was 'garbage' and said, 'Why don't you die?' Mr. Feng responded by saying, 'Then let's die together.' "

He then began swerving across the roadway, accelerating and braking suddenly, while the girlfriend tried taking control of the steering wheel and pleaded with him to stop. According to the decision, video from the scene shows Feng speeding into the 8600 block of Fraser Street, driving between two concrete barriers, and then careening over an embankment and into the river.

A forensic examination of the vehicle showed Feng was driving 71 kilometres per hour — 21 kilometres over the speed limit — just 2.5 seconds before they hit the water. He didn't hit the brakes until about one second before impact.

When they landed in the water, the girlfriend tried to open the passenger door to escape, but it was stuck, according to the decision. Thankfully, Feng managed to open his door and they were both able to get to safety.

'Deliberately and recklessly' put woman in danger

Feng pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving, and his defence team asked for a conditional discharge, arguing that he was "he was exhausted, distracted and driving in an unfamiliar area" at the time of the crash, the judge wrote.

But Harris rejected those claims.

"Mr. Feng conducted himself in a manner whereby he deliberately and recklessly put [his then-girlfriend] in danger. She was a passenger in his car and he had a duty to drive safely and exercise all caution. Instead … Mr. Feng acted without consideration for her safety and he drove into the river," the judge said.

Because of what happened, the victim told the court she will not ride in cars with other people and gets nervous near flowing water. She said she was unable to sleep after the crash, and lost her job because of poor performance.

Harris said Feng's crime warranted a sentence that will "send a message to Mr. Feng and others that driving with the intention of causing fear will result in harsh consequences, particularly when the conduct impacts a passenger who has no mechanism of escape."

However, the judge rejected the Crown's suggested six-month conditional sentence, saying it was "disproportionate" to the crime. He said two months served in the community would send enough of a message.

Harris also declined to make an order for probation once Feng's sentence is over, and said he would not impose a 12-month driving prohibition.

Feng served six days in jail after his arrest for the crash.