Justice delayed — OC driver faces charges for killing cyclist last March while on prescription drugs

Six months later, an OC cyclist may finally see justice for the driver who killed him.

According to Rancho Santa Margarita Patch, 39-year old Irvine resident Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti was arrested Tuesday on a charge of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for the death of cyclist Eric Billings last March.

Billings was riding a cruiser bike in the southbound bike lane on Santa Margarita Parkway, between El Toro Road and Los Alisos Blvd in Mission Viejo around 6:45 pm on Friday, March 15th. Fakhrai-Bayrooti, who goes by the name Hayley, was headed north on Santa Margarita when she missed her turn onto Los Alisos, and made a U-turn at El Toro Road.

Her car drifted into the bike lane, striking Billings from behind and killing him instantly.

Blood tests revealed that she was under the influence of prescription medication at the time of the collision, which she described to Patch last July as an anti-depressant.

“I’ve had illnesses; I was diagnosed with PTSD, OCD,” she said. “I was diagnosed with manic depression and for those I have to take medication or else (I’m) not going to function.” 

And yet, she claims her ability to drive was not impaired by the medication — even though her own description of what happened after her U-turn suggests otherwise.

Next, ”something came into contact with me or I came into contact with something. I don’t know,” she said outside the fountains near Selma’s in RSM.

Her car wouldn’t stop, she said.

“I tried so hard to stop that car,” she said, gesturing as if she were holding a steering wheel and slamming on the brakes. ”The wheel was out of my control. The brake was out of my control.”

Apparently, the car developed a mind of its own, seizing control and running down an innocent victim while she sat helpless behind the wheel.

Yeah, that could happen.

And despite having just made a U-turn, she somehow hit the 54-year old father of four with enough force to kill him instantly; Billings was pronounced dead as soon as rescuers arrived at 6:48 pm.

It wasn’t her first driving infraction; she had previously been charged with speeding over 65 mph and using a hand-held cell phone while driving; no word on whether her car was responsible for those infractions, as well.

Fakhrai-Bayrooti describes herself as devastated by the collision, dropping her legal practice and leaving her car in the police impound lot. She also reports being so depressed that she attempted suicide the week after the collision by taking “everything in the medicine cabinet.”

On the other hand, I doubt her victim’s family took it very well, either. Although, as a devout Mormon, Billings probably would have forgiven her if he could.

Fortunately, the Orange County District Attorney’s office doesn’t seem to be so willing to turn the other cheek.

She has been released after posting $100,000 bail.

One last note.

This comment was left on the Patch story of Fakhrai-Bayrooti’s arrest:

…I feel bad for this woman. She had a need for a prescription, and it didn’t impair her or cause her to hit the cyclist. I take thyroid medication; if I get into a car accident, will I be arrested for the same thing? And after reading her blog about the accident, poor thing seemed like she had suffered enough for what she did.

So let’s be absolutely clear.

If your medication affects your ability to drive, then don’t. If you even think you might be impaired, you have both a legal and moral obligation to stay the hell off the road.

Despite the excuses we give ourselves, no one has to drive. And no one has a God given right to be on the roads — especially not when medications or other health factors may make them a danger to others.

If you make a decision to keep driving despite the effects of your medication, you can and should be held accountable for whatever happens as a result. And just because someone denies being impaired, that doesn’t mean they weren’t, as Fakhrai-Bayrooti’s description of the collision suggests.

She may have needed her prescription to function, but should have known it could affect her ability to operate a motor vehicle; there is a reason for those warnings that accompany prescription medicines.

Now a man is dead, and a family forever shattered.

And a woman faces charges for a fatal collision that has left her depressed.

But for which, by her own description, she still hasn’t taken responsibility.

Update: The LA Daily News reports Fakhrai-Bayrooti had two drugs in her system at the time of the collision — anti-anxiety drug Alprazolan, and Buprenorphine, which the paper says is used to treat opiate addictions.

Both medications contain warnings that they can cause drowsiness and dizziness, and not to drive until you know how they affect you. According to the Drugs.com link above, combining the two medications can cause severe drowsiness, as well as severe breathing problems and increased risk of seizures.

7 comments

  1. Jeff says:

    Ten years in prison should straighten her up…… 10 years after that for loss of license – that may keep her from having her “car” kill again…..

    • bikinginla says:

      Well, that’s not fair, is it? Why should she lose her license for the actions of her car, which she apparently had nothing to do with?

      I say let’s crush the car and have it exorcised, then scatter the pieces so it can never kill again.

      • GVDub says:

        Well, the car probably wasn’t old enough to be held legally responsible, so the owner/parent has to take on that responsibility, so I’m afraid it’s back to her.

    • Joe B says:

      Ten years in prison won’t bring back Eric Billings.

      Sure, it’s cathartic to think about a killer getting her just desserts. But ultimately it’s a distraction from the fact that we could have prevented this death. And we chose not to. And the shame for that is at least partially on us.

      “she had previously been charged with speeding over 65 mph and using a hand-held cell phone while driving”. We as a society have decided that it’s no big deal when people speed or drive distracted. We could have suspended the offender’s license until such a time as she learned to drive carefully. But we didn’t do that. Instead, she paid a small fine, got a nudge-nudge-wink-wink lecture, and then we put her back behind the wheel.

      And that’s why Eric Billings is dead.

      • Jeff says:

        Ok Joe, I know it won’t bring Eric back. Since the typical under the influence driver only gets 3 years in prison, I say let’s take it up a notch. Say 10 years at least, maybe others will take note. And since the last example of texting/drunk and hit IN the bike lane Danae Marie Miler killer of Amine was sentenced to 4 years – she was released in 16 months – I do not consider this “time out” any form of punishment. And hey, Danae had 11 violations on her record…..just sayin.

        • Joe B says:

          “the typical under the influence driver only gets 3 years in prison”

          No, the typical DUI driver gets no jail time at all. Maybe you meant the typical DUI who causes injury.

          “maybe others will take note”

          Well, no, increasing the penalty for injuring somebody while drunk (assuming that’s what you meant) isn’t going to impact drunk driving, because the typical drunk driver doesn’t think they’re going to get caught or injure anybody.

          The problem isn’t that those who kill aren’t punished adequately. The problem is that those who DON’T kill — the vast majority of dangerous drivers — aren’t punished at all. It’s critical for us to realize that the difference between a dangerous driver who kills, and a dangerous driver who doesn’t, is 100% luck. It makes no sense for us to punish the unlucky dangerous driver and ignore the lucky ones (which is what we are doing now), because no dangerous drivers thinks they’re actually going to hurt someone.

          The killings will stop when we start to punish habitual dangerous driving, whether somebody is injured or not. The ideal way to do this is with automated enforcement — send a warning or two, then small penalties, rapidly progressing to license suspension for those who continue to offend.

          But even without automatic enforcement, we can still improve over what we have now. The penalty for the second minor offense or the first moderate offense should be an automatic license suspension. Fines don’t make people behave, but having to take the bus sure will. Police don’t have the resources to ticket everybody, but a saturation patrol of a small area will let motorists know that they WILL get caught if they drive dangerously in that area, so they will behave in that area. Once motorists start to behave, that frees up police resources to expand the area of the saturation.

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