October 19, 2007 Features & Images » Feature Story

Preventing preventable deaths 

Twelve fatalities in nine months on Pemberton roads has first responders speaking out

click to enlarge The Message about driving responsibly seems to have been lost on some people.
  • The Message about driving responsibly seems to have been lost on some people.

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“We left him to his numbed misery to look at a little bundle flung further into the wheat — a pretty baby boy. He too was dead…

“…We got the crowbars to get the teenage boy out of the wreck where he lay jammed against the bodies of his sister and her baby. This was almost more than we could stand — the sickening bubbling sounds and the pity of it all.”

Although written in the careful language of 1960s small town journalism, the horror in the piece is resounding. Pinckney takes an occurrence most of us are unlikely to witness and creates a vivid snapshot. Effectively, he personalizes it. It’s a document Cpl. Vadik’s father, a career RCMP officer, handed down to his son to reinforce the human cost of traffic fatalities.

“These recent MVAs have affected all of us at the detachment. At the end of the day we’re only human. I put my shoes on the same way you do. It’s sad. It’s frustrating. It’s no fun pulling a dead body out of a car. It’s no fun attempting CPR on a victim you know is probably going to die and seeing blood squeaking out of their head when you’re doing CPR,” says Vadik.

“It’s difficult to go deliver the message to a family, to say, ‘Your mom, your dad, your husband is dead — they’ve been in a car accident.’ Hearing the sounds of agony from loved ones that their… it’s the most difficult part of my job. You drive up the driveway and you know when you knock on the door you’re going to change somebody’s life forever.

“That night try to sleep and you hear the screams of mothers, daughters, husbands that can’t believe their loved one is dead.”

Cpl. Vadik explains that he had to call in a psychologist to help debrief himself and the rest of the officers and support workers at the detachment.

“It opens the floodgates. You start rethinking about all the deaths you’ve attended, particularly the traumatic ones. I’ve teared up a few times this year,” he admits.

But under the grief is another emotion shared by all of the first responders interviewed for this piece: frustration.

“I get upset. I’m mad. And I think, Why did this have to happen? Where was the breakdown? Did the message, ‘Don’t drink and drive’ get lost somewhere along the way?”

Reinforcing that message will be part of the strategy the Alcohol/Speed Stewardship Working Group will implement. Posters in high foot traffic areas will be placed throughout town. ICBC has been approached to install additional signage along the highway. A pamphlet detailing information about local accidents will be prepared to give out at road checks and presentations will be given at both the community and school levels.

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