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Woman sentenced to house arrest for fatal hit-and-run of Markham cyclist

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 (January 2021): Catherine McDonald was in court when Alexandra Forrestall admitted to the hit-and-run and spoke with the victim’s family – Jan 27, 2021

A 26-year-old woman was sentenced in connection with the death of a 54-year-old man who was struck and killed while riding his bike in Markham in June 2020.

Alexandra Forrestall was sentenced on Thursday to a 12-month conditional sentence, two years probation, 100 hours of community service and a three-year driving ban after pleading guilty to failing to stop after an accident causing the death of Safet Tairowski.

In his reasons for sentence over zoom, Justice Edward Prutschi called the circumstances of this case “a colossal tragedy that has utterly destroyed two extended families.”

He acknowledged that the sentence would likely attract criticism from some who will view it as too lenient and others who will see it as unnecessarily strict or lengthy.

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

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On June 15, 2020, at 8:20 am, Forrestall, an early childhood educator who had been laid off from the daycare where she worked, was driving to her babysitting job in Stouffville.

As she was driving along Carlton Road in Markham, her car struck Tairowski who was out enjoying a morning bike ride.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Tairowski was struck from behind by Forrestall and suffered fatal injuries. The medical evidence suggested he was mortally wounded from the collision and beyond the help of medical assistance almost immediately.

Forrestall, whose vehicle was badly damaged, knew she had struck a person and thought he was dead, but did not stop nor remain at the scene to offer assistance.

An expert accident reconstructionist concluded that environmental factors were at play in the collision and on that specific day and time, the sun would have been shining in Forrestall’s face obscuring the windshield of her car as she proceeded eastbound.

Forrestall continued on to a Tim Hortons coffee shop approximately 20 minutes away. She later called her mother and concocted a story that her car had been hit by a truck in the Tim Horton’s parking lot. She repeated her lies to her employer and then called the collision reporting centre and told them the fabricated story. She also met a York Regional Police officer and repeated her lies.

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The following day, when she went to an autobody shop to retrieve her car, she was met by York police and arrested. She then admitted to police what had really happened.

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

During a sentencing hearing in late January, Forrestall apologized to the Tairowski family.

Justice Prutschi said, “It was apparent that Forestall experienced deep regret and was emotionally overwhelmed by the enormity of her actions.”

He also noted that she has no prior criminal record, has suffered from depression and anxiety since her late teens for which she has been prescribed medication, and has a history of severe panic attacks.

“Shortly after the accident, Forrestall experienced frequent suicidal thoughts and had to be monitored closely by her family to prevent self-harm,” Prutschi said.

Forrestall has also been advised that upon her conviction, the College of Early Childhood Educators would be revoking her licence to practise.

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

As part of her conditional sentence, Forrestall will have to spend the first six months of her conditional sentence living under strict house arrest. She will only be allowed to leave her house once a week for four hours to obtain the necessities of life, or for medical emergencies or to complete community service hours.

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For the remaining six months, she must live under house arrest with a curfew from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. During the entire 12-month period, she is not allowed to have any visitors in her home except immediate family members. Forrestall must also complete 100 hours of community service.

Forrestall’s three-year driving ban runs concurrently with the conditional sentence and two years of probation she received. She can drive again after three years.

She was also ordered to submit her DNA for the DNA databank.

Crown attorney Bradley Juriansz asked for a custodial sentence of six to eight months in jail, while defence lawyer Seth Weinstein recommended a five-month conditional sentence.

Juriansz told Prutschi two other charges, public mischief and obstructing justice, were withdrawn.

Tairowski’s sister, Cindy Ismail, told Global News after the sentence that the family is outraged and angry about the sentence.

“It’s hard to believe that anybody who can do this, can just get a one-year conditional sentence,” Ismail said adding that it’s upsetting for her family that Forrestall is allowed to live under house arrest and still see family since she lives with her parents and other family members are not prevented from coming over.

“People who have done less, have got more. It’s all unfair,” Ismail said, wiping away tears.

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