Toronto pedestrian killed by driver had just lost son
Brad Stevenson, 61, was walking at an intersection in Scarborough last July when he and a friend were hit by a motorist.
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Less than three months after losing his beloved 27-year-old son to cancer, athletic retiree Brad Stevenson, 61, lost everything else to a careless driver.
Motorist Isiah Martin’s penalty for darting a GMC across six lanes of Scarborough traffic into the path of a TTC bus, and then pinwheeling into pedestrians Stevenson and Grant Underhill, 64 — killing Stevenson and gravely injuring his old friend — was a $1,000 fine and three-month driving ban.
Two other charges were dropped in return for his guilty plea to careless driving.
“Through your error in judgment you have shaken the lives of our entire family. We will never get to see Bradley grow old,” Stevenson’s brother Michael said in a victim impact statement read aloud by a prosecutor at the recent sentencing for Martin, who chose not to attend Old City Hall court but sent his own apologetic statement.
The mistake stole an elderly mother’s sole caregiver and the Stevenson family’s joy in hugging him and watching him put on skates and swing a golf club, his brother said.
“These things we believe have been robbed from us because of the fateful decision you made on July 29, 2016,” the statement concluded. “May Bradley Gerald Stevenson rest in peace. There is no fine or penalty that will bring Bradley back.”
With pedestrians and cyclists dying on Toronto streets at an alarming rate — at least 45 in 2016 — safety advocates are demanding reforms to lax penalties in hopes of saving lives and reflecting the toll drivers can take.
The advocates, including families of other victims, are calling on the Ontario government to toughen fines for drivers who kill or seriously injure “vulnerable road users,” to include community service as punishment rather than just fines and to force such drivers to attend their sentencings.
Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca recently told the Star he is awaiting advice from ministry staff on potential changes to reduce the death toll. He could offer no timetable.
In an interview John Thompson described his longtime friend Brad, a freshly retired City of Toronto worker teased for his resemblance to ex-NFL coach Mike Ditka, as generous, big-hearted and naturally sporty. The crash, Thompson said, was “a terrible, terrible tragedy to a family that was already suffering.
“Brad was all about friends and family — his son Ryan was his reason for living.”
Ryan Stevenson died May 11, 2016. A Toronto Sun column published two months earlier quoted him as saying he was determined to beat cancer so he could become a Toronto police officer like his late grandfather former Det.-Sgt. Gerry Stevenson, who helped solve the notorious 1977 murder of 12-year-old shoeshine boy Emanuel Jacques.
Ryan's family, including mom Cathy, had set up a fund to help pay for innovative medical treatments.
Underhill said in his victim impact statement, also read aloud by prosecutor Jamie MacPherson, that he couldn’t attend court because he was home recovering from chemotherapy for colon cancer diagnosed after the July crash.
Injuries including broken wrists, a fractured knee and three breaks to a leg, requiring implantation of a metal plate and screws, ended his “physically independent and mentally sound life” and left him reliant on his wife and others.
“Mentally it is challenging to maintain a sense of hope and optimism that the independence and ease of life I had worked for and enjoyed will ever be regained,” he said. “In addition I am still trying to come to terms with the loss of a longtime friend and to understand how it is that I survived this accident and he did not.”
Court heard Martin, driving home at 6:25 p.m., simply misjudged the intersection of Kingston and Saunders Rds.
Det.-Const. Lester Lalla, who investigated the crash, said in an interview Martin did not exhibit the obviously reckless behaviour, such as extreme weaving or stunt-type speeding, that would sustain a conviction on the more serious Criminal Code charge of dangerous driving causing injury, which could result in jail time.
If police had the option of laying a Highway Traffic Act careless driving charge that included tougher penalties to reflect loss of life or serious injury, they would do so, Lalla said.
“We deal with family members who are angry (at meager sentences), but our hands are tied because we have to deal with the law as it stands,” he said.
MacPherson also read Martin's statement to the court, including Stevenson's brother Michael.
“I understand an apology will not be enough or change the amount of pain my actions have caused. However, I would like you to know how deeply and truly sorry I am...” said an obviously emotional MacPherson, who has prosecuted other drivers including the one who killed Erica Stark, whose death on a Toronto sidewalk sparked a campaign for improved road safety..
“I feel embarrassed and ashamed of my actions and that I have caused pain to innocent people. I have on many occasions hoped there was something I could have done differently and, although I am unable to change the past, I can learn from this to ensure it never happens again.
“I wish that one day I can be forgiven for my actions, and please know that I will forever remember this day and be reminded of what my careless actions have brought.”