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Family of 54-year-old cyclist has harsh words for Markham driver who pleaded guilty to fatal hit-and-run

Click to play video 'Markham driver who struck and killed cyclist, and fled scene, pleads guilty' Markham driver who struck and killed cyclist, and fled scene, pleads guilty
WATCH ABOVE: Catherine McDonald was in court when Alexandra Forrestall admitted to the hit-and-run and spoke with the victim’s family – Jan 27, 2021

On what would have been Safet Tairoski’s 55th birthday, his widow, three children, two younger siblings and mother delivered emotional victim impact statements telling the court how their lives have been shattered as a result of the death of the beloved husband and father. 

Just minutes earlier, Alexandra Forrestall, the 26-year-old Markham woman who was arrested a day after Tairoski was struck by a vehicle and left to die on June 15, 2020, in Unionville, pleaded guilty to the fatal hit-and-run. Two other counts, public mischief and obstructing justice, were withdrawn.

Sobbing through parts of the all-day hearing in front of Justice Edward Prutschi, Forrestall admitted to a single count of failing to stop the scene of an accident causing death.

Crown attorney Bradley Jurainsz told the court the main issue for his honour will be whether to impose a conditional sentence or a custodial sentence.

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Read more: Cyclist dies after being hit by car that fled in Markham

According to an agreed statement of facts read out in court, Forrestall was driving her white Toyota 4Runner along Carlton Road eastbound, just east of Main Street, at around 8:20 a.m. when she struck Tairoski from behind. He was riding eastbound on the paved shoulder and suffered fatal injuries.

The court heard Forrestall’s vehicle had significant damage and she knew she had struck a person with her vehicle.

“After the collision, she looked in the mirror of her vehicle and thought Mr. Tairowski was dead,” said Juriansz.

Read more: Woman charged in fatal Markham hit-and-run involving cyclist after giving false report

It was the opinion of an accident reconstructionist and medical experts that Forrestall’s view may have been obstructed by “the environment.” The court heard she did not stop or offer assistance, but instead Forrestall drove to a Tim Horton’s at Highway 48 and Aurora Road. From there, she called police and falsely told them someone had hit her vehicle and said she was the victim of a hit-and-run.

Forrestall then continued onto her babysitting job in Stouffville where she told her employer that she had to return to the coffee shop. It was only after her arrest that she became emotional and admitted what really happened that morning to the police.

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Tairowski’s widow, Anna Tairoski, delivered a lengthy victim impact statement through tears and described how her husband, who worked for 407ETR, was the main provider for the family. She said the family is now in financial distress.

“Safet exemplified the true definition of a family man. He loved us as much as we loved him,” Anna told the court.

“I can not explain the devastation when I was told by the officers that my husband was killed by a reckless hit-and-run driver. He was left there on the cold hard ground. He did not deserve that. I am haunted by the fact that if a 911 call had been made he might still be alive today.”

Safet’s three children, including his son Michael who shared a birthday with his father, also delivered impact statements. Michael, who has just turned 22, said he was blessed to share this day with his father but is heartbroken he will never be able to celebrate with him again.

All three children described their father as their best friend and hero, saying they feel angry about the circumstances of his death.

“What happened to him was heartbreaking and senseless,” said Amanda Tairoski through tears.

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Read more: How math, science and forensics come together to unlock collision reconstruction cases

“To know this person did not care about my dad, these actions are not human but those of a cold, heartless monster who showed no mercy or remorse.”

Forrestall was given a chance to address the court and she apologized for what happened that day, telling the family she wished she had died that day instead of Tairoski. 

“I am so, so sorry. I hope that one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me, to know how deeply sorry I am and to know I will carry these events and carry Mr. Tairowski’s spirit with me forever,” Forrestall said with tears in her eyes.

Juriansz told Prutschi that a sentence of six to eight months in jail, two years probation and a three-year driving ban would be appropriate to send a message of deterrence and denunciation.

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But defence lawyer Seth Weinstein argued that Forrestall, a first-time offender who suffers from asthma, should be spared a custodial sentence, especially during COVID-19.

“Her asthma puts her at a heightened risk should she contract the virus,” he said.

Weinstein also said that Forrestall worked at a Montessori daycare school until the pandemic and when she was charged, the College of Early Child Educators sought to have her suspended to which she consented.

He said now that she’s pleaded guilty, the college will seek to have her license revoked and suggested a conditional sentence of up to a year to be served under house arrest, a year of probation, and a two-year driving ban would be more appropriate.

“She’s remorseful and very angry at herself for her response which is incongruous with her self-image,” Weinstein said.

Cindy Ismail, Safet’s sister, said in her victim impact statement that the family wants justice calling Forrestall heartless and inhumane.

“It’s important for her to know there will be consequences for a hit-and-run. I feel that Ms. Forrestall must be held accountable for what she has done. This tragedy could have been prevented if she had stopped and made a phone call,” Ismail said.

Juriansz and Weinstein agreed that Safet’s injuries were so severe it may not have saved his life, even if Forrestall had stopped. But Juriansz told the court, regardless, drivers need to know that they cannot leave the scene of an accident.

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Prutschi will deliver his sentence in March.