Zachary Bertini Cece looked up to his father Daniel Bertini, a popular science teacher at St. Joan of Arc Catholic High School in Vaughan, and told a court he is devastated he will be graduating from high school this year and starting university without his dad.
“We were looking forward to choosing my courses and career path and now I have been left feeling like I’m missing his valuable experience and guidance,” Bertini Cece told Justice David Rose in front of a packed courtroom in the Newmarket courthouse.
“The person who killed my father has taken this away from me for the rest of my life,”
On July 24, 2020, Daniel Bertini went out for his daily morning bike ride and failed to return. His widow, Rosy Bertini Cece, told Justice Rose that she turned on the TV and heard on the news that police were asking for the public’s help to identify someone who was hit on their bike in King Township.
Bertini Cece said she called York Regional Police and later learned the cyclist was her 54-year-old husband. He had been killed.
According to an agreed statement of facts read on Dec. 13, 2021 when the driver, Drak Paul, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene of a crash, Paul was travelling southbound on Keele St. south of 17th sideroad in King Township in his Honda Accord just after 7 a.m. when a police officer doing radar enforcement clocked him driving 125 km/h.
The posted speed limit was 60 km/h.
The officer did a U-turn, activated his emergency lights and began following the speeding car southbound. The officer observed the Honda accelerating and stopped chasing, concerned about the car’s speed and construction on the road.
The officer watched the Honda as it drove off, estimating its speed to be around 130-140 km/h.
Less than a kilometre later, as the Honda traversed a slight hill north of Cavell Ave., Paul lost control and skidded into northbound lanes, striking Bertini who was cycling northbound. The car continued to slide, rolling over, before becoming airborne for approximately 28 metres before coming to a rest on its roof.
Paul exited the Honda and fled the scene. Initially, police believed Daniel Bertini was the driver and had been ejected. It was soon determined that he was not an occupant of the vehicle and a search for the driver began.
Bertini was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force injuries sustained in the collision with the Honda.
At about 9:15 a.m., Paul was observed walking eastbound on 15th sideroad 2.7 kilometres away from the crash scene. He appeared to be holding his head and had blood trickling down his face, among other injuries.
Paul was arrested and charged with dangerous driving causing death.
Bertini’s widow told the judge through tears that her husband knew the rules of the road, took them very seriously and followed them whether in his car, on his bike or on the slopes.
“The offender’s irresponsible, selfish driving behaviour he chose to engage in when he got behind the wheel of his car on July 24, 2020, took away the love of my and Zachary’s life,” Rosy Bertini Cece said.
“My husband was simply doing what he loved to do for the past 30 years as a cyclist. After hitting my husband so violently, the offender left him in a ditch like an animal, then pathetically ran away. How do I forgive? I continue to pray for guidance on this.”
Ontario’s police watchdog probing role York officers played in fatal crash involving cyclist
Zachary Bertini Cece said to Paul, “How could anyone do this to another human being? I want to tell you that you are a coward and I will never understand or be able to excuse this behaviour at all.”
Court heard Paul was also driving without insurance. It was cancelled in 2018 because he didn’t pay his insurance premiums.
Crown prosecutor Sean Doyle told the judge a suitable sentence would be 30 months in a penitentiary, a six-and-a-half year driving ban and a DNA order.
Paul’s defence lawyer, Domenic Basile, told Justice Rose a more suitable sentence would be an 18-month jail sentence and a five-year driving prohibition citing his guilty plea and the fact that prior to this collision, Paul only had one speeding ticket, and also the fact that he is a youthful offender.
In the pre-sentence report, Basile said his client said he was extremely remorseful. “He was pretty depressed at the time … it happened just two months after his father passed away,” he said, adding that Paul was devastated to the point of being suicidal after the offence.
Justice Rose is set to deliver the sentence next week.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.