Jul 20, 2013 - IMPAIRED DRIVING DEATHS A STORY ON REPEAT


Fortunate enough to have survived an impaired driving car crash in 2005, memories of the incident continue to haunt Kelsey Normandeau.

Although she’s shied away from talking about the fatal night over the past eight years, a steady stream of alleged and confirmed impaired driving-related deaths keep pushing it to the forefront of her mind.

After watching a line of emergency vehicles speed past her house on July 14 to the scene of the city’s latest fatal motor vehicle incident that claimed at least two young lives, Normandeau finally decided that her story needed to be heard.

Impaired driving charges have been laid in connection to the July 14 incident.

“I think it’s a big deal,” Normandeau said on Friday. “I mean, it seems like since I was in that car accident it happens every year.”

On Nov. 13, 2005, Normandeau got into the backseat of a vehicle with her best friend Amy Perlitz, who had recently turned 18.

“That’s when my best friend died,” Normandeau concluded. “I knew (the driver) was drunk -- we all knew he was drunk.”

As reported at the time, the driver, who was convicted of drinking and driving causing death, was driving 103 kilometres per hour in a 40-kilometre zone at the time of the incident. He failed to make a turn, hitting a curb that caused the vehicle to strike a light post in the rear end of the driver’s side.

Normandeau walked away with minor injuries.

Although she’s been told time after time that it wasn’t her fault, Normandeau said that the guilt of this moment continues to haunt her. She still has difficulty sleeping some nights.

“She was my best friend since I was in Grade 2, and now I get to live the rest of my life knowing I had a part in that,” she said.

“They say friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

Since the incident, Normandeau has tried to put it behind her, even putting all photos of Perlitz away in storage, finding them too hard to look at.

But, every year, there’s at least one fatality in Prince Albert related to impaired driving -- an ongoing problem that Normandeau said something needs to be done about.

“Drinking is not like how it is anywhere else,” she said. “It’s not that big of a deal if you get caught drinking if you’re underage. You don’t get in much trouble unless you’re driving.”

Even then, she said, too many people aren’t getting the message that alcohol and motor vehicles is a deadly combination.

At least three students in her about 30-student Grade 12 homeroom at Carlton Comprehensive High School have died as a result of impaired driving, she said.

“If somebody would have come to my class in Grade 12 and said ‘three of your classmates are going to die of drinking and driving’ -- that’s pretty shocking.  You probably wouldn’t believe them,” she said.

 “This isn’t that big of a city. We’re losing all the kids to drunk driving.”

With most impaired driving incidents she’s heard about involving young people, Normandeau said that more needs to be done in the classroom.

“The only place you get a bunch of teenagers together is high school,” she said, adding that she doesn’t remember learning much of anything about the dangers of impaired driving when she was in school.

“For most people, it’s just a story for a while -- a sad story you hear for a week or two,” she said. “You hear about it maybe two months down the road when a person goes to court, but then more or less, it’s forgotten about until the next -- and there’s always a next one.”

For Normandeau, it’s more difficult to forget than for others.

“There’s so much guilt that goes on -- post-traumatic stress. Doctors can’t fix it because it’s a memory in your head that you can’t get rid of,” she said.

“She was my best friend, and I have to live with that.”

In August, 2006, Robert Gosselin, 21, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in connection Perlitz’s death.

There have been impaired driving charges laid after two motor vehicle incidents so far this year.

Chrystal Rivet, 30, was an expectant mother who died in January as a result of a three-car collision. Craig Kopichanski, 21, faces charges for impaired driving in connection to the incident.

The latest fatal motor vehicle incident took place on July 14, claiming the lives of 17-year-old expectant mother Brandy Lepine and Taylor Litwin, 21, whose vehicle was allegedly struck by the vehicle of Jeremiah Jobb, 21, of Prince Albert.

Prior to Lepine’s death, medical staff delivered her baby. The latest update this week had the baby in serious condition.

Jobb faces two counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of exceeding .08 causing death.

Well-known local businessman Ben Darchuk, the founder of Ben’s Auto Glass, died last year after Tanner Hallett Courtney, 22, struck his vehicle.

Courtney was reportedly driving 99 km/h at the time of the incident. There were no skid marks from Courtney’s car present at the scene, suggesting he hadn’t applied his brakes. He was sentenced earlier this year to two years in prison for impaired driving-related charges.

Source: Daily Herald Prince Albert


 

Last updated on: 2013-07-24 | Link to this post