TRURO, N.S. – Susan MacAskill’s father was heading home after a picnic, enjoying a summer day, when an impaired driver crossed the centre line and ended his life. Donald King, father, grandfather, husband, friend and active member of his community would never regain consciousness.
“It will be 25 years in August that the crash took place, and sometimes it seems it was long ago and other times just yesterday,” said MacAskill.
“I wonder what we missed in all those years since. He was fun and loved life and I learned so much from him about how to live. I grieve over what we lost from such a senseless act of stupidity.”
MacAskill’s mother had died of cancer, and her father had only remarried about a year earlier. He and his wife had taken a picnic lunch to Heather’s Beach, and were on their way back to their home in Walton.
“My stepmother could tell us some of the details,” said MacAskill. “They were just approaching the Masstown Market, and were talking about stopping and getting produce. When they reached the crest of the hill, at Maritime Auto Salvage, a vehicle travelling in the other direction was on their side of the road, and it hit head-on.”
Her stepmother remembered the Jaws of Life being used to get them out of the vehicle. She was taken to hospital in Truro, while he was taken to Halifax.
The collision took place around 8:30 p.m. and MacAskill was in the emergency department when the ambulance arrived.
“I’ll never forget that site,” she said. “When you see a person who’d been so alive and well in that state it’s so devastating. When the doctor came out to give us an update he commented that it was believed the driver of the other car had been drinking.”
A receipt from a liquor store, showing alcohol had been purchased about two hours before the collision, was found in the car. There was also open liquor.
Donald King was on life support for 10 days.
“We had to make the decision to remove life support,” said MacAskill. “There was no brain activity but it was still very difficult.”
At the time King, who had been a volunteer with his church, health clinic board, fire brigade, and other community activities, was 68.
MacAskill said the person driving the other car had a blood alcohol level of 0.19; double the legal limit. He entered a guilty plea to the charge of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm, and the impaired driving charge was dropped. He was given a three-year sentence.
“At the end of the sentencing I thought, ‘This is not OK,’” said MacAskill. “I’d heard of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) but there was no chapter in the province at that time. I connected with another woman who was on the same journey and we worked together to get chapters started in Nova Scotia.
After serving several years as a volunteer, MacAskill is currently the chapter services manager for the Atlantic region.
“For many people, their first connection with MADD is in the aftermath of a tragedy,” she added. “So many people are still killed by impaired drivers, it’s tragic.”
About four Canadians are killed every day, and about 175 are injured, due to alcohol and drug-related crashes.
Strides for Change
This year, MADD chapters across Nova Scotia are coming together for their signature event: Strides for Change. The first provincial walk, run and wheelchair event will be held in Truro on the afternoon of May 12.
“When we decided to try a collaborative event, instead of having smaller events around the province, we wanted a central community,” said Susan MacAskill, chapter services manager for the Atlantic region. “Victoria Park is a great spot for us to set up everything for a family event. We’re reaching out to other stakeholders in road safety to building programs around the day.”
A police paddy wagon, where people have to post bail to be released, and carts that can be taken through a course by drivers wearing Fatal Vision goggles, are just a couple of the things that will be available.
Participants can register for the 1K or 5K route. Registration is $35 for adults and $15 for children (special rates for teams), and all funds raised go to the person’s local chapter. Those taking part can collect pledges online.
Online registration is available at: https://raceroster.com/events/2018/14325/provincial-strides-for-change
For more information contact Candice Phibbs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 902-307-2250.