The Queenstown mother of a teen car crash victim has pleaded with other local kids to make safe choices when contemplating driving with friends.
Kaye Law, mum of talented musician Jessica Law, spoke of her family’s grief after losing their youngest child almost two years ago in a car crash.
Kaye’s speech – made during an emotional address to Wakatipu High students last Thursday – concluded a police-organised Drive to Survive expo for Year 11 pupils.
Kaye vividly recounted New Year’s Day, 2010, when her 16-year-old daughter, a Wakatipu High pupil, died as a backseat passenger in a car driven by one of her friends Josephine Clay, who had just got her learner’s licence.
Josephine, 16, had swapped places with driver Jesse Boulay to get behind the wheel on Littles Road, near Arthurs Point. Just minutes from Jessica’s home, Josephine’s speeding and careless driving had caused the trio’s car to collide with another vehicle.
“I never considered that she was dead,” Kaye told the pupils as she recalled driving up to the accident scene.
“I can’t remember if Jessica was in a body bag or lying on a stretcher but I know I was able to hold her. I couldn’t believe that was my beautiful daughter, lying there, dead.
“The only sound was me crying. I felt as if the birds had stopped flying and the sheep stopped moving. All I could hear was me.”
Kaye told the pupils – the same age as Jessica was when she died – that the three teens made a series of wrong choices that day.
The girls should have waited for Jessica’s parents who’d arranged to pick them up from town – instead they got into a car with Jesse, on his restricted licence. Nearing Jessica’s home, Jesse and Josephine swapped places – with Jessica becoming a backseat passenger.
“I know in my heart that Jessica wouldn’t have wanted that to happen because two weeks earlier she said to me, ‘It’s scary driving with that girl because she’s ok on straight roads but she’s not good round corners’. I said to her, ‘You shouldn’t be in the car with her driving’.
“How I wish that young people could be brave enough to speak up when they are faced with a decision that is the wrong one.”
Jesse, also 16 at the time, sustained serious head injuries and is still recovering. Josephine was sentenced in June 2010 to 650 hours’ community work, 12 months’ supervision and banned from driving for four years.
“She got off lightly as far as her injuries go. She doesn’t live here any longer, she’s in Auckland, but her life sentence is huge. She contributed to the death of her best friend,” Kaye says.
“We also have a life sentence. We no longer have our daughter, we no longer have our sister.”
Kaye described her family’s “life sentence” to the tearful Wakatipu High pupils.
“After the shock of losing your child, you have broken sleep. You wake up in the morning and you can’t believe your daughter is gone.
“There is constant crying. You have to make decisions to bury your child – what was her favourite music, what will she be wearing?
“Then you take down the things in her room. It took me months and months to do that. It’s a very hard thing to do, packing up your child’s life.
“Then you go through the anniversaries – February 1, March 1, then her birthday, then along came the first Christmas. And then you think, do you hang up her stocking? Do you put out a Christmas dinner place setting for her? The answer is no, she’s not here anymore.
“I walk through the malls and hear the music that Jessica would have sung and I have to go into a corner and cry.”
Her message for the pupils was clear: “Make good choices. Don’t ever, ever, put your parents or all the other people that you love into the same position I am in, that my husband’s in, that Jessica’s brothers and sister are in.
“If you know you shouldn’t be in the car, don’t get in. Please think twice.”