Mother of 18-year-old Toronto man killed by alleged impaired driver who fled the scene speaks out

Click to play video: 'Mother of man killed by alleged impaired driver in Toronto crash speaks out'
Mother of man killed by alleged impaired driver in Toronto crash speaks out
WATCH ABOVE: The mother of an 18-year-old motorcyclist killed in a fail-to-remain collision is devastated. Catherine McDonald speaks to those who loved Jacob Quinonez who say he was a mentor to youth in the community – Aug 10, 2021

Standing in Ranee Park down the street from where her son was killed days earlier, Cindy De La Cruz spoke fondly of her eldest child Jacob Quinonez, whom she described as a wonderful son and brother to his 11-year-old sister.

“I’m not angry. I don’t have time to hate her. What’s she thinking? She’s forgetting she’s leaving a human — it’s somebody’s son, it’s my son she’s leaving on the floor,” De La Cruz said with tears running down her face, wondering why the woman suspected of causing the collision didn’t stop to render assistance to Quinonez.

It was Thursday around 11 p.m. when Toronto police were called to the intersection of Dufferin Street and Ranee Avenue for a fail-to-remain crash.

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Police said a 2020 Black Dodge Caravan travelling eastbound on Bentworth Avenue collided in the intersection with a motorcycle that was travelling north on Dufferin Street, being driven by Quinonez.

Investigators told Global News the motorcyclist was knocked to the ground and dragged some distance before he was released.

Police said the minivan drove off, leaving Quinonez to die. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said the van was located abandoned a short distance later and the woman believed to be the driver was found nearby.

Kirsten Stevens, 28, was arrested and charged with impaired operation causing death, exceeding blood alcohol causing death and leaving the scene of an accident causing death.

Stevens appeared in a Finch Avenue court via teleconference last Friday and was released into the custody of her surety — her mother — on $2,000 bail.

The 28-year-old is not allowed to drive and must undergo counselling or assessment for alcohol abuse.

“If she decides to drink and drive, she’s a criminal,” said De La Cruz, who said her son was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

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She said she taught her only son about the dangers of impaired driving, but could not account for others who were on the road.

“I want to know why she’s running. Why she (did) not call 911.”

Quinonez, who had just graduated with honours from St. Basil-the-Great College School, was described as a community leader by the founder of a youth- and parent-driven initiative called Freedom School Toronto.

The group, which fights anti-Black racism in the school system and creates educational alternatives for Black children, has a picture of Quinonez on its website, where he is featured as a youth educator.

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The co-founder of Freedom School Toronto, LeRoi Newbold, was also at Ranee Park organizing a memorial for children in Quinonez’s name and said she first met him when he became involved as a student in 2016.

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“He achieved his high school diploma; he was very proud of that. Our kids remember him taking out his diploma. But his dreams weren’t over there. He had so many other dreams,” Newbold said.

“He wanted to impact the community. He wanted to make the world a better place for all of our kids — those facing the challenges that he did and any kind of challenges you would face in Toronto as a Black youth.”

Quinonez was set to start studying psychology at York University in the fall.

His aunt, holding a picture of the young man with his high school diploma, held back tears as she talked about their plans, which had been destroyed.

“We were planning a celebration. He had just graduated. We were going to go to Niagara Falls. He had never been to Niagara Falls, if you can believe it,” said Jennifer Arango.

Stewart will be back in court in September.

Quinonez’s mother is focused now on laying him to rest this Saturday.

A GoFundMe campaign has now been started to cover funeral costs.

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“This lady destroy a neighbourhood, destroy my family, destroy my daughter, destroy me,” said De La Cruz.

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