Drunk drivers are responsible for a rising number of fatal collisions in Calgary, police said Thursday as they continued to investigate the latest crash that killed three people.

Impaired driving charges are pending against a 47-year-old man who was behind the wheel of a Dodge Neon on Wednesday when it collided with a Jeep Grand Cherokee on 17th Avenue S.W., killing all of his passengers.

Police are confident alcohol was a factor in the crash but have not completed toxicology tests.

If these suspicions hold true, it would mean there have been 18 fatal car crashes involving alcohol so far this year, an increase over 14 collisions reported in all of 2012.

“I’m angry,” Denise Dubyk, a local official with MADD Canada, said as she stood in front of a memorial wall of drunk-driving victims.

“To see these numbers rising, to see the crashes that we hear about week after week, I just don’t understand why people are not listening to our message.”

The blue Neon was speeding eastbound on 17th Avenue near 37th Street S.W. when it lost control, crossed solid double lines and struck the westbound Jeep. The Neon then spun off the road before hitting a concrete wall bordering the CTrain line.

The Neon’s driver remains in hospital in critical condition, but all three of his passengers were killed in the crash.

The driver and front-seat passenger were wearing seat belts; however, it’s unclear if the back seat passengers were buckled in, said Sgt. Colin Foster, of the Calgary Police Service’s collision reconstruction unit.

Two passengers in the sedan, a 35 year-old man and 32-year-old woman, were common-law partners, Foster said. The woman’s brother, 37, was the third passenger. Their relationship with the driver remains uncertain.

Foster said he doesn’t know where the Neon’s driver and passengers had come from before the crash, but all of them were believed to be under the influence of alcohol.

All four female occupants of the Jeep, ranging in age from 47 to 85, were heading home from supper when the Neon hurtled into their vehicle. They escaped the crash with only minor injuries.

“Every time we unfortunately have one of these accidents, we’re again repeating the same information: don’t drink and drive,” Foster said.

“But people seem to be of the opinion that ‘it’s not going to happen to me; it’s somebody else’s problem. I will be OK.’

“You’re not going to be OK. It only takes one person to end the life of somebody else and it’s happening too much at the moment.”

On Thursday afternoon, the scene had been cleared of glass and debris. But workers and business owners at the 17th Avenue Village strip mall across the street were still talking about the crash.

Melvin Mallari was working at the Tim Hortons on Wednesday evening when he noticed the bright lights of emergency vehicles filling the coffee shop’s windows. When he stepped outside to investigate, he saw the two significantly damaged vehicles on the road.

“I saw a guy being pulled out of the car and someone was trying to revive him,” Mallari said.

He said he also saw the occupants of the Jeep being helped out of the vehicle, adding one of the women seemed to be limping.

Quoc To, owner of RiTo Salon, and hairstylist Steven Lam were chatting and cutting hair Wednesday night when they heard what they thought was a car slamming into a pole.

“It was a really, incredibly loud sound,” To said. “When I looked out, the car was already against the barrier and there was smoke coming out.”

“The Jeep’s front end was smashed in,” Lam said.

Officers remained at the scene late into the night. They were still there when Edwin Tsoi, owner of Brother’s Pizza and Donair, was closing up shop at 1 a.m.

“Roads were still closed and police were still here taking pictures,” Tsoi said.

Dubyk, who lost a son-in-law to drunk driving, said her heart is with the families affected by every crash.

In Canada, she said, impaired driving is the top criminal cause of death, killing four people and injuring 174 others every day.

“It doesn’t have to happen,” she said. “There is always a safe way to get home.”

Source: Calgary Herald


Last updated on: 2013-11-01 | Link to this post