Holding back tears, Anastasia Koretskaia listened closely as the trial for 40-year-old Kugatheesh Rasaratnam, accused of dangerous driving causing the death of her identical twin sister Svetlana Koretskaia, began.
Crown attorney Sean Doyle opened the trial by telling Justice Andras Schreck that Svetlana Koretskaia was killed on July 8, 2017 while riding her Honda motorcycle northbound on Bayview Avenue north of Rosedale Valley Road.
The road was dry on that summer evening around 8 p.m. when the 35-year-old and her brother-in-law Gus Diamantopolous, both experienced motorcycle riders who were riding in a staggered formation, were struck by a northbound Honda Accord that was attempting to do a U-turn in front of them. Doyle told Schreck a collision was “unavoidable”. Koretskaia’s bike slammed into the driver’s side of the sedan being driven by Rasaratnam and was hurled under the car and pinned.
Despite the efforts of an off-duty nurse and first responders, Koretskaia was killed. The cause of death blunt force trauma to her neck, torso and arms.
Doyle said the accused’s manoeuvre was dangerous “by beginning a U-turn from a merging lane (Rasaratnam had just come off the southbound DVP) and it was in close proximity to a curb in the roadway.” He also mentioned there was high grass along the eastbound shoulder of Bayview Avenue obstructing northbound traffic from seeing ahead and there was a solid yellow line separating northbound and southbound traffic.
Diamantopolous was the other rider who survived the crash. He testified the two had gone for an early dinner at a restaurant at Portland Avenue and King Street West and neither had any alcohol to drink at dinner.
Diamantopolous called his sister-in-law a competent and capable rider who had taken many defence motorcycle riding classes. He testified they were both wearing protective clothing to minimize the inherent risk of motorcycling. Diamantopolous said he thought they were moving with the flow of traffic, travelling about 70 km/h.
“As we came around the curve, the vehicle only became visible at the last second,” Diamantopolous testified.
He told the court he attempted to stop the car from making a U-turn by honking his horn, but told the court, “I don’t believe he saw me.”
Diamantopolous testified he was struck but managed to recover and come to a stop without injury and at first, and didn’t know what had happened to Koretskaia. He testified he went back to the collision site and saw her motorcycle in a heap.
“She was trapped partially under the vehicle and we couldn’t get her out,” Diamantopolous explained, wiping back tears.
He remembered calling his wife, the victim’s identical twin sister, saying he was in a state of trauma.
During cross examination, defence attorney Kristin Bailey suggested that Diamantopolous and Koretskaia were travelling at speeds closer to 90 or 100 km/h.
“I strongly disagree,” Diamantopolous responded.
Const. Dawn Mutis, an accident reconstructionist with Toronto police, testified that the damage to Koretskaia’s motorcycle was consistent with someone riding in the range of 74 km/h, plus or minus 15 km/h.
Outside court, Anastasia said she has lived with grief since the death of her identical twin sister.
“She was the love of my life,” she said, adding she and her sister used to ride motorcycles together. Both began riding in 2013.
But since Svetlana was killed, Anastasia said she has never gotten back on a bike.
The judge-alone trial continues. The maximum penalty Rasaratnam faces, if convicted of dangerous driving causing death, is life in prison.