Safe street advocates create memorial for man killed in motorcycle collision on Parkside Drive

A community group that promotes safety on Parkside Drive created a memorial on Saturday for a man killed in a motorcycle collision more than three years ago.

City must make street east of High Park safer, say family, friends, community members

Relatives of Oliver Sabater attend a ceremony in his honour on Saturday where a memorial was created for him on Parkside Drive, where he was killed in a motorcycle collision in 2018. His sister Leni-Jayne Tang is far left, while his daughter Jessica Sabater is far right. (CBC)

A community group that promotes safety on a busy Toronto street created a memorial on Saturday for a man killed in a motorcycle collision more than three years ago.

Oliver (O'Jay) Sabater, 45, died on Parkside Drive on Sept. 15, 2018. A car collided with the motorcycle he was riding. Sabater died instantly. A female passenger, 27 at the time, suffered critical injuries.

Safe Parkside, the community group, organized a ceremony for Sabater at the intersection of Parkside Drive and Howard Park Avenue on the east side of High Park. Dozens of people attended, carrying flowers and signs that read "Justice for O'Jay" and "Always in Our Hearts." 

At the ceremony, family members and friends listened to a song about safe streets and a poem about Sabater. Later, the crowd walked north to a pole near the crash site, where the memorial was created. Group members taped posters featuring his photo and bouquets of flowers to the pole.

Leni-Jayne Tang, Sabater's sister, told reporters that his family continues to miss him deeply. With his jokes and laughter, he missed his calling as a comedian, she said.

"If you actually knew my brother, he was the life of the party. He was the jokester. He would make everything fun," Tang said. "I can honestly definitely say, now that he's gone, there's a huge darkness and a light that is missing from our family."

Tang said his death has been painful and her family wants justice and closure. Toronto police charged a man in his death, a trial began in the case, but it was halted in February 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the family is frustrated that the trial has not yet resumed. As well, she said police need to enforce the speed limit on Parkside Drive.

Jessica Sabater, his daughter, said she feels as though she has lost her best friend.

"He took me everywhere. We went everywhere together until basically his death really. On the day he died, he was actually at my birthday dinner. He planned the whole thing with my best friend and they surprised me with it. It's just losing your best friend in that way. It's terrible. It's hard," she said.

Sabater said the community support has made a huge difference and she appreciates the memorial that has been created.

 "It's very overwhelming. We are so appreciative of all the support that we have here," she said.

Both Tang and Sabater said the city must make Parkside Drive safer without further delay.

Oliver (O'Jay) Sabater, 45, died on Parkside Drive on Sept. 15, 2018. A car collided with the motorcycle he was riding. Sabater died instantly. A man was charged in the collision, a trial began but it was halted due to the pandemic. (CBC)

The memorial comes after a crash on Parkside Drive that killed an older couple, Valdemar Avila, 71, and Fatima Avila, 69, on Oct. 12. Valdemar died at the scene, while Fatima died in hospital.

"So many things have been occurring on this street. Something needs to change. We need safer streets. We need it for all of our families. We need safety. We need security," Tang said.

Advocate says city must redesign Parkside Drive

Faraz Gholizadeh, a local resident and a spokesperson for Safe Parkside, said the city needs to redesign the street to make it safer. A complete overhaul, with bike lanes and sidewalks that meet minimum standards, is needed.

"It's been dangerous ever since we moved here and no one has seemed to take action to correct it. We've now lost three lives on the street in the last few years and that's three too many," he said.

The city recently lowered the speeds on Parkside Drive from 50 kmh to 40 kmh, but Gholizadeh said signs will not make the road safer.

"It was nice that it was reduced. It was long overdue. But the problem with the street is street design. You could put a 20 kilometre per hour speed limit and the street will still be dangerous because nobody would obey the 20, nobody will obey the 40 and nobody was obeying the 50 before," he said. 

"The street is designed in such a way that cars are able to get to these crazy, deadly speeds, and that is what needs to be addressed. Until that is addressed, the street will remain dangerous."

Coun. Gord Perks, who represents the area, was not available for comment on Saturday.

On Nov. 9, city council voted in favour of a number of measures to improve safety on Parkside Drive. The measures include lowering speeds, adding sidewalks and installing "Watch Your Speed" signs.

With files from Dalia Ashry