Action Sudbury launches 25th Red Ribbon campaign

Paul Walker is a convicted drunk driver who killed his best friend after a hard night of drinking when the vehicle he was driving smashed into a telephone pole.

Dec. 18, 2009 was a Friday. It was a regular day for Walker, then 24 years old, who played hockey that night. The plan was to pick up his best friend, Tyler Goulais, and go to the bar. It was a fun night, they decided to keep the party going at a friend's house. Walker got behind the wheel and drove there with Goulais and some other people.

“I don't really remember much of that night,” said Walker, now 28. “I do remember when I came to, it was early, sometime around 5 a.m., and I was standing outside my vehicle. Immediately, panic set in and I knew something bad had happened.”

That isn't where Goulais died, though. That didn't happen for another five hours.

It was around 10 a.m. when Walker again decided to drive home. He lost control of his car near Frost Avenue, less than a kilometre away from his home. The car hit a telephone pole, killing Goulais as a result. He was 24.

“My best friend died as a result of my carelessness,” Walker said. “It will be four years this December, and I regret it every day. There isn't a day that goes by I don't think about Tyler and his family, and I wish I could change what happened, but I can't.”

Walker said drinking and driving was something he did quite a bit before that night. In fact, there were nights, much like Dec. 18, 2009, when Walker couldn't remember driving his car home and parking it in the driveway.

“When I first started drinking and driving, it was after one or two drinks, and I would drive home,” he said. “It seemed that each successful trip home just raised the bar for next time. I started testing the limits each time. Once I started drinking, I changed and all logic was thrown out the window.”

He said he always thought the worst that would happen was he would get caught by police and lose his licence.

“That wasn't even close to the worst, and I wish that had happened to me, because maybe if it had, Tyler would still be here.”

Goulais had just passed the screening process to join the Canadian special forces. He had been working in the mines and was waiting for the next step in his military career when the crash took his life.

Walker was sentenced in 2011 to impaired driving causing death. Three years later, Walker has served his time in prison. He is also under a driving ban for 10 years. The fact he spent time in prison is of little consequence when compared to losing his best friend, he said.

That's the reason he is sharing his story, so maybe he can help prevent anyone else from having to go through it.

“Tyler's family has been very supportive since Day 1,” Walker said. “They are amazing people, I can't say that enough.”

Walker's story brought tears to the eyes of many in the room at Travelodge Hotel, where dozens of people gathered for the launch of the 25th Red Ribbon campaign.

The campaign is organized by Action Sudbury, Citizens Against Impaired Driving.

Ron Roy, chair of Action Sudbury, said the holidays are a time when families and friends get together to celebrate. Unfortunately, it's also a time when people let their drinking get out of hand.

“Collision spike at this time of year,” Roy said.

Death as a result of drinking and driving is an elected tragedy, he said. People choose to drink and drive.

The red ribbons are a symbol that people choose to not drink and drive.

“It's a symbol of those we lost and of the lives we can save,” Roy said.

For Walker, he just hopes people get his message.

“Tyler was one of those people who would give you the shirt off his back,” Walker said. “I just want to get the message out there, and for people to learn from my mistake.”

Source: Northern Life News


Last updated on: 2013-12-01 | Link to this post