“Even though it is a tragic reminder of a life that was lost, it is also a beautiful reminder of the life that was lived,” Betts, vice-president of the West Prince Chapter of MADD, said Wednesday during her chapter’s first-ever hosting of MADD’s provincial candlelight service of hope and remembrance for victims of impaired driving.
As the audience sobbed with her, she told how her life and the lives of her family members were forever changed on September 24, 1993.
“Little did I know, that when I dropped her off to meet the bus that morning, that Wendy would never be coming home again.”
She recalled her daughter’s plans for attending a friend’s birthday party after school that day.
“I will never forget how excited she was,” she told the hushed crowd.
Wendy and four friends were walking along a road between friends’ houses when a car struck four of them from behind. Wendy died instantly. Three of her friends were seriously injured.
Later that night, while being consoled by family members and friends, Betts was informed the driver of the car that struck the girls had failed two breathalyzer tests.
“And then another shock, when we were told the driver’s name, a man we had known for years. This was devastating.”
As the case was set to go to trial nearly two years later, the driver pled guilty to lesser charges of dangerous driving.
A jail sentence of 12 months for dangerous driving causing death and six months concurrent for dangerous driving causing bodily harm ended up being four months in custody, Betts said.
“Four months, and our daughter was gone forever.”
Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Paula Biggar called impaired driving an “unacceptable issue” and welcomed the work MADD carries out to try to eliminate it.
She said safeguarding the public against threats to health and well-being is one of government’s most important responsibilities, and pointed to tougher legislation in place to curtail the crime.
“While I recognize there is still more to be done, I believe our province has no tolerance for those who repeatedly choose to put their lives, and the lives of every Islander, in danger,” Biggar reflected.
“Attending the scene of a collision and subsequently delivering news that no one ever wants to hear is heart-wrenching,” the commanding officer for the RCMP in Prince Edward Island, Chief Superintendent Joanne Crampton told the crowd. “Our officers are affected as well, becoming frustrated with a situation that seems to repeat itself all too often.”
But she said the calls being made to report impaired drivers, reassures officers that the public cares.
During Wednesday’s ceremony, family members and MADD representatives lit candles both in memory of loved ones and to convey a message of hope.
Scott Wilson from Alberton, a pastor with the Freetown Church of the Nazarene, also lit candles during his presentation, acknowledging how impaired drivers can rob light from innocent lives yet reminding victims and their families that they can dispel the darkness by being the light that eliminates impaired driving. “It’s been said tonight, P.E.I. is coming along in dealing with impaired driving. And part of the driving force behind that is meetings like this,” he said.
Her light lives on
Trudy Betts remembers being asked on the night her daughter, Wendy, died whether they had given any consideration to organ donation.
“Just for a moment it kind of took me back,” she told a hushed crowd at a MADD Canada Candlelight service of hope and remembrance.
“But right then, I remembered Wendy telling us on two separate occasions that very summer that she wanted to sign an organ donation form. It was something discussed in school, and she wanted to do it,” Betts recalled.
“We said yes, and we have never regretted our decision. It makes us so proud of Wendy to know that this gift has helped others.”