Up until that final, fateful decision, their nights were probably similar.

Fun and drinks with a few friends, just like so many other people enjoying Friday night in the city.

But when Jillian Lavallee and her long-time friend Courtney Bohn finished making the rounds at Calgary’s Beerfest, they went outside to find taxis — because that’s what Lavallee and her friends have always done after drinking.

“It wouldn’t have even occurred to Jillian to drive home after drinking — she was always so responsible and she always planned ahead,” said Bohn. “It was just obvious she would take a cab at the end of the night, and it was like here’s my cab, here’s yours, talk to you soon.”

The 20-year-old man that allegedly killed Lavallee a few minutes later allegedly didn’t share the same good sense, and according to police, he was drunk when the Cadillac Escalade he was driving blew a red light and slammed into the taxi carrying the 25-year-old woman.

“It keeps going back and forth, between the most intense sadness — I’ve never felt heartbreak like this before — but then I get really angry,” said Alyssa Lam.

“This was 100% preventable.”

Lam, Bohn and other devastated friends of the vivacious, outdoor-loving 25-year-old gathered Sunday at the home of Lavallee’s parents, Dan and Brenda, to share their mutual grief and offer support to a family still reeling from the shock.

Lavallee’s sister Caitlin says her sibling, a business school graduate, was a woman who adored the people in her life.

“My sister was a beautiful girl, who had so much love for everyone in her life,” said Caitlin.

“She loved her family well and she had the most infectious laugh that will be forever missed.”

It must have been quite the laugh — because even in their pain, her friends can’t help but giggle as a group when they talk about it.

“People bugged her all the time about her laugh — we all did too, but we loved it,” said Bohn, as all the friends chuckle at the memory.

“It came right from her soul,” added Julie Van Engen, another close friend.

The loss is intense, and it’s an anguish shared by another family in Calgary — that of Amritpal Kharbanda, the 46-year-old Associated Cab driver who died instantly when the Cadillac rammed his Toyota Prius taxi.

A father of two young girls, Kharbanda worked every hour he could manage to make money for his wife and kids — and on his Facebook page, underneath a photograph of them all together, the university-educated cab driver had written “Love My Family.”

“He was talkative and co-operative, and he worked so hard — he was always working hard for his family,” said Sukhram Sandhu, the supervisor at Associated who attended the crash scene at Macleod Tr. and 12 Ave., which ultimately involved three vehicles, after a Honda Civic hit the Cadillac, badly injuring the 64-year-old driver.

It seems the only ones to emerge from the horrifying wreck relatively unscathed were the three occupants of the Cadillac, who only suffered minor injuries.

“That’s where the anger comes from — this guy who is 20 and has a lot of life to live as well makes an (allegedly) stupid decision like this,” said Van Engen.

“That’s going to follow him the rest of his life.”

Ali Alajandro Montoya has been charged with impaired driving causing death, and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm — but police say the charges are likely to be upgraded on Monday, following Lavallee’s death in hospital.

For family and friends of the dead and injured, there are difficult days ahead, many involving lawyers and courtrooms.

Even before the painful proceedings begin, Lavallee’s family has started fundraising in Jillian’s memory, with every penny going to Mothers Against Drunk Driving:

Her friends, also including Kristina Chayipova and Lexie Stewart, say they will be there, to see that justice is done — and so that no one forgets the young woman who died, despite making the responsible and typically safe decision to take a taxi home.

“We need to use our voices to prevent this from ever happening again,” said Lam.

Source: Calgary Sun


Last updated on: 2015-07-20 | Link to this post