Drunk driving deaths shown through empty shoe display in Alberta park
'They are not here to wear their shoes,' says mother of drunk driving victim
Thousands of empty shoes filled a Cochrane park today to represent the number of Canadians killed by drunk drivers.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving estimates up to 1,500 Canadians are killed each year.
"They are not here to wear their shoes — they were ripped out of our lives," said Kim Thomas, who organized the event in the southern Alberta town just west of Calgary.
She wants to put a face and story to the statistics, including her 17-year-old son Brandon. He was killed by a drunk driver just south of Cochrane in December 2012.
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It's not hard to find others in the tight knit community who were affected by the tragedy.
Morgan Nagel's sister was Brandon's classmate.
"It's something I see going on in our community and something I want to help fight against," said the town councillor.
The fact that many alcohol-related driving deaths are preventable frustrates many relatives of victims, including Francis Pesa's family.
The 20-year-old, who was known for offering to be the designated driver, was killed in January. He suffered massive injuries from a crash on Calgary's Métis Trail and later died from his injuries.
A 36-year-old man has since been charged with impaired driving causing death .
"It's devastating," said his brother Hervin. "Honestly as painful as what we went through, I wanted it to be just us. I wanted it so that no one else has to experience the loss that we felt."
Lori Church's 33-year-old son was also killed when the vehicle carrying him was rear ended at a stop light. Jonathon David Wood had chosen to take a taxi home after a night of drinking in Red Deer in November 2013.
An 18-year-old was charged with impaired driving causing death in the crash.
"What we want to do is remind people that these are loved ones," said Church.
"These aren't just shoes, these are people with faces and lives who had — up until that moment — had plans for the future."
The shoes were sent to Thomas from people across the country. She says she plans to donate them to charity after this weekend.