The family of a 10-year-old girl who was killed by a vehicle while riding her bike in Thornhill, Ont., is suing the driver and the City of Vaughan for $7.5 million for what they say was an "entirely preventable" collision.
Mike and Natalia Belykh, the parents of Nikita Belykh, say they want answers about the crash that led to the fatal collision that claimed the life of their daughter on Sept. 1.
Nikita Belykh, who spoke three languages, was looking forward to starting school in September, the family said.
"Please, be careful. Know if you're driving a vehicle, you have a weapon — and you can destroy somebody's life, somebody's hopes, somebody's future," said Mike Belykh, speaking to reporters on Thursday near the memorial site.
"No parent should have to endure such a terrible loss."
The lawsuit alleges the driver was not only distracted, but travelling over the speed limit. It accuses the City of Vaughan, which includes part of Thornhill, of negligence. The claims have not been proven in court.
Nikita's mother, Natalia Belykha, said the death of her young daughter, who had a "big heart and an amazing soul," has left the family in despair — with no answers.
"You have no idea how our lives are destroyed right now. We have no idea how to live, what to do, what's the plan in the future ... It's unbelievable," she said through tears.
"I just want to have answers ... that's why we're here today. How that happened and who is going to be responsible for [it]."
On the morning of Sept. 1, Nikita was riding her bike home from swimming with a friend at the North Thornhill Community Centre.
She was cycling northbound along the sidewalk on Pleasant Ridge Avenue, near Highway 7 and Dufferin Street, when she was hit by an SUV.
York Regional Police said they were called around 10:45 a.m. to the scene. She was rushed to hospital and died the following day.
Asked how the family reacted to the driver being charged last week, Belykh's sister Maria said it doesn't change anything.
"No charge is going to be enough. I lost my sister, my parents lost a daughter and I see three of the strongest people in my life that are falling apart before my eyes," she said.
As a result of the collision, a 33-year-old Mississauga woman has been charged with careless driving causing death and is due in court next year.
The family is accusing the city of failing to ensure that the sidewalk and intersection were safe to use. The suit also alleges that the city failed to respond to public complaints from community members and drivers about the safety of the intersection.
A representative for the city said in a statement that while the incident is heartbreaking, the city is unable to comment because the matter is under litigation.
According to the statement of claim, the family is seeking $7.5 million in damages from the Mississauga driver and the City of Vaughan.
"It's our position that this accident was completely avoidable," said Michael Smitiuch, a lawyer representing the Belykh family. "This is yet another senseless tragedy involving a young person on Greater Toronto Area roads.
"Had the driver involved paid proper attention, and also had there been certain safety precautions in place that may also have prevented this."
In York region, there were four young people killed this summer as a result of a driver failing to pay attention, Smitiuch said.
"It shouldn't be, frankly, a matter of life or death if you're riding a bicycle near a community centre, near a school," he said.
"You should be safe. Your children should be safe."