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.
However, 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.
Update 2: There have been a few comments, as you can see below, accusing me of bias in this case and demanding changes to this story.
I stand by everything I have written. However, just to be clear, I am not prejudging this or any other case; my comments are based on what has been published in the press, including comments from the DA’s office.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti has been charged, but has yet to be tried or convicted. My hope is that she receives the justice she deserves, whether that is conviction or exoneration.
But I repeat, there is no excuse, ever, for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol — including prescription medications — that may prevent you from safely operating a motor vehicle.
If you have to take something, then get someone to drive you, find another means of transportation, or stay home.
The lives of others depend on it.