Man pleads guilty to driving van into school, killing girl

ST. PAUL — A man has pleaded guilty to criminal charges after his minivan plowed through the wall of a rural Alberta school and killed an 11-year-old girl.

ST. PAUL — A man has pleaded guilty to criminal charges after his minivan plowed through the wall of a rural Alberta school and killed an 11-year-old girl.

Richard Edward Benson pleaded guilty earlier this month in St. Paul court to one count of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

The 47-year-old, who remains in custody, has not yet been sentenced and is to appear again in court on Nov. 14.

Benson’s family said earlier that he had a history of seizures and was likely having an attack when he was behind the wheel on Oct. 25, 2012.

Witnesses said the van was heading down a back alley before it smashed through a fence and then a window, diving into a lower-level classroom just after the Grade 6 French class had started for the day.

The van sent students and desks flying as it spun around and pinned three girls underneath it.

The girls were airlifted 200 kilometres west to a hospital in Edmonton where one of them, Megan Wolitski, died the next day.

Police at the time said Benson was combative with officers during his arrest at the school, but was later co-operative and remorseful.

Benson was originally charged with dangerous driving but the charges were later upgraded to criminal negligence.

He was scheduled to go to trial in November.

His defence lawyer, Brian Beresh, said after a failed bail hearing last year that he didn’t think the upgraded charges were justified.

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