Impaired driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. RCMP officers are often the first on the scene at motor vehicle crashes and see how tragic the decision to drink and driving really is. They also see the hurt families experience when they’ve learned that a loved one has died.
RCMP officers from Atlantic Canada recall the crashes that have had an impact on them and also on the people and communities involved. These stories are personal accounts of what happened. The memories of these fatal crashes stay with the police officers, it’s the reality of what happens when a person drinks and drives.
Driving drunk is a choice. These officers hope that by sharing their stories a life or lives can be saved.
Cst. Vanessa DeMerchant – New Brunswick
Cst. DeMerchant standing outside a police vehicle on side of highway, holding whiteboard: “What will stay with me…..is the scream”
“What will stay with me…..is the scream”
I was just weeks away from marking my fourth anniversary as a member of the RCMP. I’d already gained experience in many areas but little did I know what I would experience one late October night. I was posted in a remote area where the communities are close knit because they are far apart. It was near one of these communities where I would get dispatched to my first impaired driving crash; a crash where someone would lose their life.
It was 1 a.m. and I was told by our dispatch that a single vehicle had struck a rock face along the edge of the highway and there was one person trapped in the vehicle. What I saw when I arrived at the scene was much different. The car was on fire and it looked like someone was still in the back of the vehicle. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do. The fire was hot and the car was fully engulfed in flames. I quickly searched around but could not find the driver or anyone else who may have been in the vehicle.
A crowd started to gather as people from the nearby community, where the young victim lived, started arriving at the crash scene to see what happened. After the crowd had left, a man arrived at the scene and he was totally distraught. There are things I will never forget from that night; it seems as if all of my senses had been affected. I can still feel the heat from the fire, the smell as everything was burning, but what will stay with me for the rest of my life is the scream the man let out when he got to the crash. This father had just lost his daughter.
The investigation was taken over by an RCMP collision reconstructionist as they are involved in looking into collisions resulting in serious injury or death. I would later learn that alcohol was a contributing factor to this fatal crash and that two other people were in the vehicle but survived.
The motor vehicle fatality statistics increased that day with another person losing their life as the result of impaired driving. What the statistics don’t reveal is how families, communities and first responders are affected. The statistics didn’t reflect the heartache and anguish shared by the families and communities connected to this crash. This one I will carry for the rest of my life because I knew the young woman who died that night. Our paths had crossed many times at community events where she was helping her community by giving back. I saw she had a bright future; a future that her community will never be able to see or experience.
(the reproduction is a copy of an official work that is published by the Government of Canada and that the reproduction has not been produced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada.)
© Samina Iqbal. 2015