Barriers would save lives on the Linc and Red Hill, say grieving families

Kim Lackie's sobs are out of control when she tells the story of her son's death on the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. But on Monday, she told the story anyway.

City staff will report back Dec. 4 on barriers and other safety issues

Susan Sholer of Caledonia, whose son Michael died in a crash on the Red Hill Valley Parkway, says the city needs to erect centre median barriers. "How long is that going to take?” she said. “How many people are going to die?” (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Kim Lackie's sobs are out of control when she tells the story of her son's death on the Lincoln Alexander Parkway.

But on Monday, she told the story anyway.

She was among four families urging councillors to put centre median barriers on the Red Hill Valley and Lincoln Alexander Parkways.

All of them had children who died on the roads..

Lackie's son Aaron Haire, 18, was driving. His girlfriend, Kristine Williams, was in the passenger seat. It was Oct. 23, 2014, and they were heading to Lime Ridge Mall to pick up a friend.

On the way, Lackie said, he over corrected and crossed the grass median. His car smashed into two other vehicles. Haire and Williams were killed instantly.

Treena Williams, left, and Kim Lackie are the mothers of Kristine Williams and Aaron Haire, two teenagers who died in a crash on the Lincoln Alexander Parkway in 2014. They were among four families who urged the city Monday to put barriers on the highway. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"He was the best of the best, as his nana would say," Lackie said through tears as she addressed city council's public works committee Monday.

"I have to keep going and have a voice, and looking for change on these roads."

Michael Sholer "loved life and had plans for his future like so many young men of 25," says mom Susan. "Michael made a mistake and he paid the ultimate price for it." (Sholer family/obittree.com)

With barriers, the kids might still have been hurt, the families said. But they might have avoided the terrible head-on collisions that killed them.

The city has already been looking into doing exactly that, said Martin White, manager of traffic operations and engineering. He'll present a report on Dec. 4 that examines the barrier issue, among other factors.

But barriers are not always a magic fix, White told CBC after the meeting.

 They have to be the right height and material, and in the right location. If not, he said, vehicles will flip over them, or bounce back into traffic and cause even more deaths.

Treena Williams says she pulled into the driveway and saw police cars, and "I thought ‘Which one is it? One of my children is gone.'" When she heard the news that her daughter Kristine and her boyfriend Aaron Haire were gone, "I dropped to the floor in tears, screaming." (Aaron and Kristine together forever/Facebook)

In 2015, the consultant CIMA recommended a combined $10 million in improvements to the highways. That includes spending $5,569,000 on a high-tension steel cable median barrier system.

The city has been working "non-stop" on that report, White said.

It's installed bigger and better signs, and modified guardrails. This fall, it will erect six digital signs that will flash messages such as "slippery pavement" and "caution: drive carefully."

Over the next four years, White said, crews will resurface the highways. When they do, they'll install rumble strips.

Aaron Haire, 18, and Kristine Williams, 19, were "looking forward to their future together," says Treena Williams. (Aaron and Kristine together forever/Facebook)

For Susan Sholer, the safety measures can't come soon enough. Her son Michael, 25, died in January. 

Police say drugs were a factor in Michael Sholer's crash, which his mom acknowledges. But a centre median, she said, would still have helped.

"We feel if the barriers had been there, perhaps his accident wouldn't have been so bad and maybe he could have gotten some help," she said.

"How long is that going to take? How many people are going to die?"

Jordyn Hastings and Olivia Smosarski died on the Red Hill Valley Parkway in 2015. Their families presented to city councillors on Monday, urging the city to install barriers on the road. (Jordyn Hastings/Facebook)