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Edmonton MADD wonders whether public is getting the anti-drunk driving message

Families of people killed in crashes involving intoxicated drivers say they are grateful for a yearly candlelight vigil while managers of MADD Canada continue to urge the public not to drive while under the influence.

'Just stop. Think. Don't do it — make other arrangements. It's so simple'

The family of Geo Mounsef, the toddler killed on a Terwillegar restaurant patio in 2013, light candles Sunday evening at a MADD vigil in Edmonton. (CBC)

Families of people killed in crashes involving intoxicated drivers say they are grateful for a yearly candlelight vigil while managers of MADD Canada continue to urge people to not drive while under the influence.

Members of the Edmonton chapter gathered Sunday evening for its 20th event at Holy Trinity Church to lean on each other for support.

Livio Fent, the grandfather of a two-year-old killed in a crash on a restaurant patio in 2013, was among dozens who attended. He called the ceremony "incredibly supportive."

"The loss is amplified," said Fent of the death of his grandson, Geo Mounsef. "It comes through more so than other times, because it is a time of family and a time of getting together."
Livio Fent, grandfather of two-year-old Geo Mounsef killed on a restaurant patio, said the MADD vigil is incredibly supportive of victims and their families. (CBC)

Geo was with his parents and baby brother at a restaurant near Rabbit Hill Road and 23rd Avenue in the Terwillegar area when Richard Suter drove his SUV into the patio. The vehicle pinned Geo against a wall.

"All we have left is our memories, our photos, what we remember of him and what he meant to us," Fent said.  

Gillian Phillips, manager for MADD's victim services in Western Canada, said she's been getting a lot of calls about crashes this season, raising doubt whether people are getting the message.

"November, December has been the busiest months for a long time," she said. "To say the message is getting out — from what I'm seeing — I don't think so," she said.

Still, Phillips and the others will keep trying to get through to people. She said everyone has the ability to make the right choice. 
MADD says people are still not getting the 'don't drink and drive' message. 1:09

"If they could feel even for one fraction of a second... what it feels like — the people who've had that knock on the door, who've lost that person."

"Just stop. Think. Don't do it — make other arrangements. It's so simple."

MADD Canada says on average, four people are killed and 175 injured in Canada every day because of impaired driving.

For the crash that killed Geo Mounsef, Suter was originally charged with impaired driving causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm and a single count of refusal to provide a breath sample.

In June 2015, Suter pleaded guilty to refusing to provide a breath sample and was initially sentenced to four months in jail. An Alberta Court of Appeal lengthened that to 26 months, a decision now being re-evaluated by the Supreme Court of Canada.
It's the 20th year the Edmonton chapter of MADD has had a candlelight vigil for victims' families. (CBC)