One month after losing his leg due to a Toronto crash allegedly caused by an impaired driver, Carlos Bastarrachea is continuing his recovery and is staying positive despite the circumstances.
Speaking to Global News on Thursday with his wife Emilia Ballester by his side at Providence Health in Scarborough, Bastarrachea detailed his journey after the July 1 crash that caused him to lose much of his left leg.
“We could be focusing on getting angry at the person who caused this. We could be getting angry about the irony of choosing to come to a different country, only to get hit, literally, by an unforeseen circumstance,” he said.
“But that won’t bring my leg back and that won’t bring peace of mind.”
Bastarrachea, 32, and Ballester, 26, moved to Toronto from Mexico in December 2020 in search of a better life. Ballester hopes to pursue a contemporary dancing career, while Bastarrachea was able to keep his job with the company he worked for in Mexico as they have an office in Toronto.
But around a year and a half after they arrived, they fell victim to a life-changing collision which police say was caused by an alleged impaired driver.
It happened before midnight on Canada Day at University and Wellington avenues in the downtown core. The violent multi-vehicle crash left seven people injured and 26-year-Gregory Nathan Girgis dead.
Bastarrachea and Ballester were walking home after getting some drinks, celebrating Canada Day, when it happened.
“We were just pedestrians trying to get back home,” Bastarrachea said.
“And our lives got changed by a decision of one driver to run a red light.”
They said they had the right of way to walk north across Wellington Avenue and had just stepped off the curb to cross.
“We just heard like this car going super fast, and I just remember turning around and I saw this big van just crashing into two other cars,” Ballester said, adding that cars began to spin towards them.
“Next thing I know, the car just struck my husband and he was on the ground and I just turned around and saw him. And it was just, it was horrible. I was in shock.”
After being struck, Bastarrachea, in severe pain, looked at his leg and saw that it was badly damaged.
“It just so happens that there was a nurse and a firefighter at the scene who helped us out while the ambulance came,” Bastarrachea said.
An ambulance quickly arrived and Bastarrachea said he eventually lost consciousness in the vehicle, knowing he may lose his leg.
Ballester said she also saw the body of the man who was fatally struck being covered by emergency responders, describing the scene as like “a horror movie.”
“I remember when they put Carlos in the ambulance, I saw from the distance like they were covering him,” she said.
“We learned that he was my age, he was 26, and that he was just crossing before us. And I was, I was devastated … I’m devastated for his family.”
Bastarrachea regained consciousness the following day.
“Saturday I woke up at the ICU and, you know, I’m fully intubated with a lot of cables and stuff running all around,” he said.
“I wake up and obviously I see that half of my leg is missing.”
Ballester and a friend explained the situation to him and that his leg had to be amputated due to the damage done.
The doctors suggested the surgery and Ballester approved it.
“They did try to rescue my leg, but … the outcome of it wasn’t going to be functional. It wasn’t going to be nice and it wasn’t something that I would have been comfortable with, to be honest,” Bastarrachea said.
“So as I told Emelia, you made the right choice. I would have made the same choice with my body.”
The doctors then explained what the next steps would be in his recovery, which includes healing the wound, rehab, learning to walk with a two-wheel walker and building his upper body strength in order to be independent.
And nearly a month after the crash, he has made progress.
“Almost a month after the accident, I’m fully independent, fully functional here,” he said, noting that his wife of two and a half years has been by his side throughout his recovery.
“What has kept us positive is obviously the support we have, the support I have with her and the love that she is showing me every day by showing up in hospital, by taking care of everything around the house.
“It’s a responsibility that, you know, no one no one is ready for, no one is wanting to. But she has stepped up.”
Bastarrachea still faces more work in his recovery.
“It’s been a tough journey these past four weeks, and we’ve only just got started,” he said.
“Nothing prepares you for this…. It takes a while for for one to be in peace with this reality.”
Bastarrachea, who remains in hospital, said he will be able to start working again once he returns home as his work is done on a computer.
Ballester, however, said a strain in her hamstring suffered after her husband pushed her out of the way of the vehicle has not allowed her to dance for weeks, but is hoping to get back to it after resting.
Bastarrachea said it’s “painful” to see the damage allegedly caused by an impaired driver.
“It felt quite painful to know that because of someone’s decision to take a car when they shouldn’t have been driving, that he changed the life of so many people,” he said.
Toronto resident Nitan Thakur faces six charges in relation to the incident, including impaired operation causing death, dangerous driving causing death and impaired operation causing bodily harm.
Thakur remains in custody.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
Global News has learned that Thakur also has a court date in Brampton in December for two counts of speeding and operating a vehicle while performing a stunt.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe account has been set up to support Bastarrachea and Ballester with financial expenses that they are encountering as a result of the incident, including prosthetics.
— With files from Catherine McDonald and Isaac Callan