Loss felt every day
I am writing this letter to clarify some points in Mrs. (Penny) Reinecke's letter last week (Pique Jan.10), which I feel were inaccurate and also to shed some light (on it). I am the driver of the vehicle that killed Eleanor Reinecke at 3:09 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2011.
Firstly, it is true that I was speeding on that fateful night. I was travelling seven (7km/h) over the limit, which I admit was wrong of me. I never denied this, and I in fact told exactly this to the police during my first interrogation two days after the accident — way before the black box information was ever retrieved from the vehicle.
You can judge me for this as you wish, but otherwise I was faultless that night.
Now, that being said, with respect to my communications with the family, what was printed in last week's letter is absolutely false.
What Mrs. Reinecke failed to mention was that due to the fact that the investigation into the accident took the RCMP 11 months to complete, and that the Crown took another three and a half weeks to decide against pressing charges, I was pretty much gagged for this period of time. My ticket was issued 363 days after the accident.
Anyone who has even a basic understanding of law knows that while you are under police investigation, for any reason, you DO NOT CORRESPOND with the other side ... without a lawyer, one of which I thankfully never had. I sincerely regret this circumstance and it bothered me constantly.
What was also omitted from Mrs. Reinecke's letter was that when she and her family requested a face-to-face meeting with me on the first anniversary of the accident I accepted without any hesitation. Given the fact that I couldn't write them at that time, it was the least I could do. The RCMP was shocked. They told me it was so rare that Sgt. (Shawn) LeMay even requested my approval to sit in on the meeting to learn from it for the future.
During this meeting, which was about an hour long, we talked about many things, including the circumstances of the accident. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and the whole experience absolutely broke my heart. Even after one family member told me that he wishes I was "in jail" and that I "should have gone into the headlights" of the oncoming car, I offered to give them all of my contact information to set up a correspondence. I also made very clear that I deeply regretted, probably more than anything else, not having written them sooner.
They accepted, and it was agreed, that I would pass this information to Sgt. LeMay after the meeting who would then pass it on to them. I did so, but that was the last I heard from Mrs. Reinecke until last week's Pique.
I have taken responsibility for my actions, but I do not take sole responsibility for what went down that night. I can and have accepted my part in the tragic events of Jan. 6, 2011, but the responsibility is shared.
The completely out of date safety standards of the pitch-black and shoulderless Highway 99 definitely played a huge part in it, as does the constant cavalier and reckless attitudes of the pedestrians who meander or run along and across the road every night dressed all in black and who are, for whatever reason, completely oblivious to exactly what's going on around them. This is an ongoing problem that will continue to produce consequences until something is done.
If there were streetlights along that section of highway, Eleanor would be alive today.
If she was on the well-lit and plowed valley trail 10 metres to the right of the road, she would be alive today. We need lights on Highway 99 from Creekside to Alpine. Anyone who argues for light pollution over safety has never had to look a grieving mother in the eye.
The RCMP has definitely stepped it up as far as programs to prevent this problem, but they are limited in that unless people listen and take affirmative action for themselves there's not much else that the police can do.
Whenever I approach a municipal official about this problem, I am told that it's the province's responsibility for the highway. When I approach the B.C. government, I get nowhere. All I can do is advocate for proper road safety, in and out of the vehicle, at every possible opportunity, and to make very sure that I am as safe a driver as I can possibly be for the rest of my life.
I have felt my part in this tragedy every second, of every minute, of every day since it happened. Not a day goes by where I don't think about it, but I will not shut down and wallow in self-pity for the rest of my life.
I honour the memory of Ellie Reinecke by being the best person that I can possibly be towards others and myself, and by doing everything that I can do to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again. I never had the chance to meet Ellie, but by all accounts she was an amazing young woman who blessed every single soul she touched. I too will place flowers every year for the same reasons as Mrs. Reinecke.
The highway is a living, moving, and very dangerous place that demands respect from everyone who uses it. Please, please take care of yourselves so that you, your friends, your family, and the friends and family of everyone possibly involved, never have to go through what we've been through. It's so easy to stay safe.
Road users need to think of safety
I write in response to Penny Reinecke's letter in the Jan. 10 edition of the Pique. While I cannot begin to imagine the pain she and her family went through, and are still going through following the tragic death of their daughter on Highway 99 in a collision with a cab two years ago, I feel compelled to point out some elements of unfairness of her letter.
The driver involved in the aforementioned accident is a friend of mine. Contrary to Mrs. Reinecke assertion, he has taken responsibility for and is very remorseful for his part in the accident. It is unacceptable that he was doing seven kilometres over the posted speed limit at the time of the collision. However, it must not be forgotten that Mrs. Reinecke's daughter was walking on, not next to, but on the highway. This was around 3 a.m. on a snowy, slushy night, when there was a well lit valley trail running parallel to the highway, only (a few metres) from where the accident occurred.
People (usually under the influence) walking on the highway at night, usually in dark clothing, is something that we as cab drivers are forced to contend with almost every weekend. They are either unaware of or simply do not care how difficult it is for drivers of vehicles to see them.
I am astounded that the municipality has not considered options such as erecting signs at the exits of the village, alerting potential "highway walkers" to the dangers they face; introducing a by-law enforced with fines; and providing at least somewhat adequate street lighting in the dark parts. I think as a result of this inaction over a long period of time, and the nature of the victim's location at the time of the accident, the blame cannot be shouldered solely by the driver.
Having now said that, I wish Mrs. Reinecke and her family all the best in the recovery from their terrible loss, and truly hope no other family has to endure the same fate.
'Campus' is best use of land
In his Jan. 10 editorial, Bob Barnett spoke to the decision Council needs to make around post-secondary education in our community and we would encourage the community to be involved throughout the process.
The Whistler International Campus is proposed for the Alpha Lands, which are in the process of being developed anyway. It is my contention that the campus, to use the municipality's planning terms, offers the "highest and best land use" for this community and is one of the primary reasons I continue to advocate for it.
Moreover, it provides the cleanest and most significant economic stimulus possible that will help to level the economic ups and downs we continue to experience while both protecting and enhancing the environmental features. Two hundred and seventy million dollars in a phased ten-year construction with an ongoing operating budget of approximately thirty million dollars would give us an enviable stability in an economically unstable world.
(The editorial) points out the need to "offer the right programs, in the right format, at the right time, in the right location, and price... and they shall come." This is the very reason we have partnered with the UNBC and BCIT as well as an Austrian and Japanese institution.
UNBC has one of the most visionary post-secondary leaders in North America. For example he has created cutting edge programs in the field of energy that have garnered a first place tie in North America with Harvard. It is one of the reasons UNBC has seen a significant increase in applicants for 2013.
Similarly, innovative leadership at BCIT and its School of Business, our other B.C. partner, has led to the longest waiting list of any post-secondary institution in the province. Offering BCIT's tourism programs in Whistler would result in immediate enrolment as well as support for local businesses.
Our partner in Austria offers degrees in such areas as Sports Equipment Technology and Environmental Management and Ecotoxicology, which are oversubscribed and tie directly to our community's endeavours. More importantly the campus combines the theoretical university teaching approach with that of the technical or applied sciences — a unique combination in the country. This gives the students more opportunity to fulfill the rapidly growing skills employment gap in our own B.C. economy. The campus will offer online and on-campus learning along with opportunities for the students to do some work abroad.
Our research in current program preferences and market demand has been thorough and six years in the making so that we are confident we meet the criteria outlined in his editorial.
What we need now is for Council, to support its mantra of being "open for business," as they demonstrated with Michael Audain's Gallery and to give us the opportunity to also support the Whistler brand and our community's expressed desire to bring a vibrant post-secondary industry to town. We encourage readers to visit www.whistlerinternationalcampus.com for further details including a video of the campus.
An 'uncivilized' vacation
I read with disgust the article by Vic Tharenou, "Pamplona: A rite of passage" in the Pique's Travel and Adventure section (Jan 10), applauding and promoting the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. It seems incredible to me that anyone, especially a travel writer, would be unaware of the barbaric cruelty attached to this so-called festival. Anything that promotes the enjoyment of the torture and cruel death of animals for human entertainment, is something that can never be justified by calling it "tradition."
Was the author aware that these unfortunate bulls are running to a vicious and bloody death in the arena? During his excitement and pride was he aware at all of the reality that lurks behind what he calls "one of the world's great festivals?" Allow me to relate the facts, if you can bear to read them.
Prior to being released into the streets, the bulls are confined to dark pens where they are sometimes debilitated by laxatives and often drugged; several inches of their horns are often sawn off, which impairs a bull's ability to coordinate its movements. The organizers may also smear petroleum jelly into their eyes to impair their vision. Finally, the terrified animals are released, goaded into the streets with electric prods, where, blinded by the sudden sunlight they slip and slide in a panicked stampede towards the mindless drunken lunatics who flee before them. The bulls frequently slip and fall or crash into walls, sustaining broken bones and other injuries.
At the conclusion of the run, while the idiot humans who ran with them retire to the nearest bar to celebrate their machismo, the bulls are led one by one into the bullring for a one-sided "fight" they have no chance of winning, and which will end in a tortured and painful death.
First, the bull is stabbed by picadors who drive lances into the bull's neck and shoulder muscles, impairing its ability to fully lift its head; the lances are twisted in order to obtain maximum blood loss. The picadors ride blindfolded horses which sometimes have their vocal cords severed so they cannot scream in terror, and which are often gored by the bulls.
Next, the banderillos take over, driving banderillas (harpoon-like sticks) into the bull's back. By now weakened by blood loss and pain, the bull is further goaded and tormented before our brave hero arrives — the matador, or killer in Spanish. The matador provokes the exhausted animal into a few charges before stabbing it with his sword. If he misses, an executioner enters, to sever the bull's spinal cord. The matador may slice off the bull's ears, tail or hooves, as a "trophy." Often, the paralyzed bull is still alive and conscious, when it is dragged out by chains attached to its horns.
Surveys show that a majority of Spaniards no longer support bullfighting, and it is banned in Catalonia. It is largely supported by uneducated tourists and by the travel industry, aided and abetted by articles such as this. The writer calls it "one event that should be ticked off everyone's bucket list."
I call it a sadistic spectacle of machismo posturing, which satisfies the most debased and perverted instincts of some humans, and which should be consigned to the history books.
The Emerald bus blues
I originally intended to write this letter last spring when we Emerald folks started dropping off the transit grid, but the weather got better and I adopted my 14-year-old's solution to the problem and I started hitching.
It's a wonderful way to meet delightful people and we knew we would get more service in winter. Ahh but not so! After waiting for the much anticipated, ramped up Dec. 21, 2012 winter schedule (drum roll please) we folks in Emerald lost integral service. I've done a spreadsheet based on my commute time to and from Emerald. At the end of my rant I will provide a potential solution to this problem.
Before the "extra service" schedule effective Dec. 21 2012, we in Emerald had a 5:21 a.m., a 5:56 a.m. and a 6:36 a.m. bus to town. Now we have service at 5:21 a.m. and a 6:34 a.m. In between that over an hour wait for us, there are three buses to Alpine and back to town — that don't come to Emerald.
Often my shift starts at 7:00 a.m. Transit now dictates that I arrive to my place of service a full hour before my shift starts. What will happen to us this spring?
A general break down shows that from mid morning to 4:20 p.m. there is only one bus an hour out to Emerald and back, and during that hour there are three to four Alpine or Rainbow buses that do not go to Emerald. Most people in Rainbow drive cars. Ask anyone on the bus.
I'm fully aware that most folks choose to live "south of the border" so the buses are fuller, but did you know that there are 44 buses that go to Cheakamus between 5:48 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. and only 14 buses go north to Emerald between 5:51a.m. and 3:45 p.m.?
Please help! Take a few moments to complete the on line survey. This info is in all the bus shelters. Together we can make positive change!
A kettle full of thanks
Sherry Baker, Lonne Clark and myself are involved with The Salvation Army Kettle Drive in Whistler and Pemberton, from ringing the bells at the Kettle stations to organizing the campaign.
This year was another wonderful giving year of generous donations, which helps so many in need in our Sea to Sky corridor and we just had to thank everyone involved.
Once again the good people of Pemberton, under the supervision of Lonne Clark, raised just over half of the total with one Kettle in front of the Pemberton Valley Supermarket and two very generous individual donations.
Whistler did extremely well too with our three Kettles and the generosity of our locals and wonderful guests. The winner, of course, is The Salvation Army and all of the less fortunate families that will benefit from the efforts of all involved in Whistler and Pemberton.
Thanks to all involved, this is always my best Christmas present.