Hamilton

Mother of RHVP crash victim 'heartbroken' by limited participation in inquiry

The mother of a teenager who died in a crash on the Red Hill Valley Parkway is "heartbroken" no victims of collisions will be allowed to fully participate in an inquiry into the deadly road.

Belinda Marazzato says she wants to challenge parties trying to 'escape responsibility'

Belinda Marazotto, whose daughter Olivia Smosarski died on the Red Hill Valley Parkway in 2015, was one of nine applicants asking to take part the inquiry. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The mother of a teenager who died in a crash on the Red Hill Valley Parkway is "heartbroken" no victims of collisions will be allowed to fully participate in an inquiry into the deadly road.

Belinda Marazzato, whose daughter Olivia Smosarski and her best friend Jordyn Hastings were in a crash on the parkway in 2015, had applied for standing, but on Wednesday Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel released his decision not to grant her or any other victims full participation rights.

"The only people the Commissioner has allowed to participate are the ones who have a vested interest in persuading him that they didn't do anything wrong, namely the City, the Province, the construction company and the engineers," wrote Marazzato in a statement.

"He has shut out the only people who have an interest in preventing a whitewash, namely those of us who have paid the ultimate price, if those parties actually did do something wrong."

Jordyn Hastings and Olivia Smosarski were killed in a crash on the Red Hill Valley Parkway in 2015. (Belinda Marazzato)

In explaining the reasons for his decision, Wilton-Seigel acknowledged the suffering Marazotto and her family had endured and added the inquiry would benefit from their experience. But the justice said he wasn't satisfied she was "uniquely situated to offer any other information or assistance" to the inquiry as a participant.

Marazzato​​​​​​​ said she appreciated that acknowledgement, but was "profoundly disappointed" in the decision to exclude her.

The mother made an emotional plea for participation back on Dec. 10, saying she felt her daughter would have insisted she take part to protect the children of others.

The inquiry was launched after the city revealed a 2013 Tradewind Scientific report that found the asphalt friction on some sections of the parkway fell well below UK safety standards.

Wilton-Siegel made it clear that the purpose of the inquiry is not to reconstruct specific cashes or determine fault. Instead, it's focused on the testing that was carried out, why results weren't made public and safety on the road.

In order to make sure the voices of victims are heard, he proposed five steps, including that a public forum be held so people personally affected by crashes could have their say.

But Marazzato​​​​​​​ said details around what that forum would look like are still vague and she's not confident it will amount to the same impact as full participation rights. 

"I am sure it will be a far cry from actual meaningful participation," she wrote in part, adding her lawyer will not be able to cross-examine or call witnesses to "challenge the other participants whose agenda is to escape responsibility."

Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel is the commissioner of the inquiry. He proposed other ways victims voices could be heard. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Full participation rights also allow a party access to a database of documents, the ability to comment on background materials and written evidence gathered by the commissioner's counsel, and to make written and oral submissions.

Wilton-Siegel's decision granted those rights to the city, province, Dufferin Construction Company which built the section or road that's in question and Golder Associates Ltd., the lead consultant on the friction report the inquiry stems from.

"It just feels like a sop to me," Marazzato​​​​​​​ wrote. "I think the millions of people who have travelled that Parkway deserve an inquiry that includes the people whose lives were devastated or put at risk by driving on it, not just those who built it, invited them to use it and may well have kept them in the dark about its dangers."

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