How a drunk driver turned this mother and daughter's world upside down

·4 min read

It's been more than seven years since a drunk driver crashed head-on into the car Nelson B.C.'s Pat Henman and her daughter Maia Vezina were travelling in, but not a day goes by when they aren't reminded of the event's physical and emotional turmoil.

"I don't know moment to moment what's really going to hurt and what's not, because things are not normal inside me," said Henman, 62, from her home.

Henman is set to publish a book in the new year, called Beyond the Legal Limit, which details the crash and its aftermath. She hopes her story will result in fewer people drinking and driving.

"There is no need for it, right?" she said. "I just don't see the sense anymore."

Despite continued awareness and some of the toughest laws in Canada, impaired drivers still account for around 20 per cent of crashes each year in the province, according to statistics from ICBC.

An average of 67 people are killed in crashes each year in which alcohol is a factor.

Henman and her daughter survived — an outcome that wasn't initially clear, as Henman went into cardiac arrest multiple times after doctors and nurses scrambled to deal with her injuries at a Calgary hospital, where both she and Maia had been flown from the accident site around Skookumchuck in the East Kootenay.

Pat Henman
Pat Henman

The collision happened around 5:30 on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. Vezina was driving.

Henman's last memory is stopping to stretch their legs at Fairmont Hot Springs and pushing off for the final leg of the journey to Nelson.

After the crash, she had to learn about the seriousness of it from others and police reports.

'Bad shape'

The image of the pair's vehicle, with its front end completely crushed in up to the windshield, is telling.

"Well, we were both in pretty bad shape," said Henman of her injuries.

Her daughter had multiple fractures in all four of her limbs and is still hobbled by an ankle that won't heal. She spoke about the impact of the crash in a video produced by MADD Canada in 2018.

"I am constantly dealing with waves of tired and anxiety and depression," she said. "My left ankle is dead."

'Hell'

Henman was in hospital for six months and had 19 surgeries in the first week for multiple fractures. Every single one of her ribs was broken; she lost a section of her intestine and one-third of her stomach.

She couldn't eat solid food for more than a year.

"It was hell," she said.

It's taken years of hard effort to try to regain the life as a theatre performer, singer and director she knew before the crash

Vezina, who is 26 now, has completed university to become a teacher, but it's unclear if she will ever be able to work full time in that job.

Previous offences

The woman who hit the pair, Shara Bakos, now 42, shouldn't have even been on the road that day, as she had a suspended licence due to prior impaired driving incidents.

She was convicted in connection with the crash on three counts of operating a motor vehicle while disqualified and one count of impaired driving causing bodily harm and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Henman says she served less than half of that before being released.

Crown prosecutors had asked for a three-and-a-half year sentence, but Henman was expecting closer to 10 years.

Despite reading a victim impact statement during the proceedings, she said little else and was directly asked very little by the court. She thinks that should change.

"What I fight for is … the rights of the victims. I think that we need perhaps to have a little more say," she said about victims' involvement in criminal proceedings.

Henman and Vezina did settle a civil claim, in which she was awarded money to help with their recovery and loss of income. Henman says it's cold comfort.

"They could have all the money back if I could go back to June 8, 2013," she said.

Advocates against impaired driving ask that people who consume alcohol or drugs have a plan to get home safely.