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‘All because of a phone’: Mother warns of distracted driving risks after daughter’s death
Published Wednesday, October 31, 2018 5:11PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, October 31, 2018 6:36PM CST
This was supposed to be the year Sandra LaRose bought her daughter a grad dress. Instead, LaRose bought an urn.
On August 16, 2018, Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk was driving to a friend's place, southeast of Weyburn. She turned left off Highway 39, onto Range Road 2141, where she was hit by a train near the intersection. Kailynn’s friend, who was following her, saw the crash scene and notified LaRose.
“He had sent me a message through Facebook messenger, asking me to call this number, which I thought was really odd,” Kailynn’s mother, Sandra LaRose, said. “So, I called the number and it happened to be the RCMP.”
Kailynn was airlifted by Stars Air Ambulance to the Regina General Hospital, where she underwent surgery. Later, Kailynn and LaRose flew to Saskatoon for further treatment. Less than a week after the crash, Kailynn passed away in hospital. It was the day after her 17th birthday.
Weeks later, an investigator with CP Rail returned Kailynn's phone to LaRose.
“He told me, unofficially, that the accident was deemed distracted driving, and that google maps was activated,” LaRose said.
LaRose also believes her daughter was listening to loud music, and probably didn't hear the train whistle.
“It was heart wrenching and like a kick in the gut. Something as simple as a phone, took my baby from me,” LaRose said.
Last year, distracted driving caused 6,399 collisions on Saskatchewan roads. Twenty-six of those crashes, were fatal.
“It’s tragic and no one should ever lose their life because they were distracted by a phone or something else in their vehicle,” said Tyler McMurchy with SGI media relations. “We want to remind drivers to pay attention, to remain focused on the road and just drive.”
Now - as Manitoba gets set to impose harsher penalties on those who drive distracted - LaRose is begging drivers to put the phone away.
“Even if it's sitting on your passenger seat and that screen flickers, you're going to look at it. Because it'll catch your eye and you'll look down. And if you look down, that one split second, there could be a kid crossing the road,” LaRose said.
A reminder LaRose hopes will prevent others from the heartbreak she feels every day.
“All her dreams and ambitions are gone. All my dreams for her are now nightmares. All because of a phone.”