Charity bid by father of doctor killed in crash

Sarah Laftavi with her parents Margaret and Mehdi. Picture: contributed
Sarah Laftavi with her parents Margaret and Mehdi. Picture: contributed
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THEY were waiting eagerly for her to arrive – their pride and joy, their beautiful, clever, only child.

She was likely excited too. A long day at work as a trainee surgeon would have taken its toll. There would have been stories to share and laughs to be had, her doting parents hanging on her every word.

But as Mehdi and Margaret Laftavi waited for their daughter’s car to pull up outside the family home, just minutes down the road it lay in pieces. Their wonderful 24-year-old Sarah would never come back.

“It has completely changed our lives,” said Mr Laftavi. “Since her childhood she would always say, ‘Dad don’t worry, Dad relax.’ It’s devastating.”

Mehdi Laftavi today speaks publicly for the first time since the death of his daughter almost a year ago.

Fun-loving Sarah Laftavi died after a smash between her car and a bus on Lasswade Road last April.

The force of the collision caused Sarah’s grey Volkswagen Passat to split in two – the pieces coming to rest 50ft apart – after it was struck by a number 31 Lothian Buses double-decker.

Emergency workers battled to save her life, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her parents, from Loanhead, live on the same road where their daughter lost her life.

“She was our pride, our hope and our happiness and she was a very caring girl,” said Mr Laftavi, a director at the Centre for Maritime and Industrial Safety Technology at Heriot-Watt University. “She always wanted to help people. Since her childhood she used to come with me to Indonesia; she used to visit underprivileged children. Now my main aim is to see how I can continue her ambitions.”

As the first anniversary of her death approaches, Sarah’s family hope to honour her memory by setting up a charitable foundation in her name.

They are still having to come to terms with the tragedy.

Mr Laftavi said: “I don’t have any children any more and all I have is to make sure her soul is in peace.

“She was a lovely girl, and she worked so hard. She got a medical degree and she loved people.”

Sarah’s talent and intellect were evident from an early age.

She was a star pupil at St Margaret’s school in Newington, excelling in mathematics competitions and being named Best Student of Mathematics in 2003.

Her kind heart and ambitions shone through in her application to study medicine at Edinburgh University.

She wrote: “I realise that pain, both physical and mental, is the worst thing that a human being can experience.”

Sarah, who graduated in June 2012 as a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, had started working at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy just weeks before she died.

Her post as a foundation doctor in general surgery was her second placement. Her first had been in general medicine.

Mr Laftavi said there were countless memories of Sarah which he and his wife treasured, not least when she flew to Dubai after a ten-hour shift to surprise her dad on his 60th birthday.

To find a way to channel their grief into something positive, Mr and Mrs Laftavi are in the process of setting up a foundation in Sarah’s memory.

They are currently awaiting approval from The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator to officially register the “Dr Sarah Laftavi – Help the Impoverished Children Charity”.

It is hoped the cause can raise money to invest in education in underprivileged areas of Indonesia, East Africa and India – an issue about which Sarah was passionate.

When they feel stronger, Mr and Mrs Laftavi also hope to campaign for improvements to Lasswade Road, which is notorious for fatal road crashes.

In May 2007, 18-year-old Alexander Scougall, of Gilmerton, was killed when the car he was travelling in overturned after colliding with a van. Two years later motorcyclist Keith Henderson, 49, from Bonnyrigg, died after a collision with a skip lorry.

Mr Laftavi said: “I’m going to see if I can speak to the authorities. That stretch is very dangerous. There have been three fatalities.

“At the moment we are paralysed, up and down, it’s very difficult. When we come to terms with this we will speak to the authorities. It was an unfortunate accident.”

In a tribute to their friend, Sarah’s former university classmates ran the Rome marathon yesterday, having raised £7000 in less than a month.

Spurred on by Sarah’s memory, they braved torrential downpours to complete the gruelling challenge.

Juliet Carmichael, who is now working as a doctor in Oxford, was among the group.

She said: “We decided to fundraise for the Make a Wish Foundation as Sarah’s foundation is not yet fully registered and we thought it was an appropriate tribute to Sarah’s generous and extravagant nature.Sarah was renowned for her love of entertaining and making others happy – it was not unusual for her to deliver a Balmoral afternoon tea to friends confined to the library in exam season, or even to arrange taxis for friends to Harvey Nichols for some retail therapy.”

She said the fundraising response spoke for itself.

Ms Carmichael added: “Sarah was truly loved by her friends, and had more than anyone I know. We miss her greatly.”

The group’s Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/rome-laftav pays tribute to Sarah’s indulgent yet kind-hearted nature.

It says: “She loved the finer things in life – Prada handbags, Michelin-starred restaurants, Louboutin shoes and extravagant holidays.

“But she was extremely generous. She loved giving presents to her friends and family. Treating them to amazing gifts, trips away and fantastic meals.

“We thought, what better a charity to raise money for than one that does incredibly special things for kids who really need something special in their lives.”

The Make a Wish Foundation grants wishes to children and young people with life-threatening conditions.

Mr Laftavi said: “We are very grateful to Juliet, and Sarah’s other friends.

“This is one of the things that has soothed me – that she had so many good friends. There are so many people who wrote to us over the last year. I need to get the time to write back to them all.

“Some of them did not leave addresses. But I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart for the support.

“It’s been phenomenal – I will be grateful for the rest of my life.”