B.C. mom of five dies in crash while surrounded by support group

A mother of five trying to recover from drug and alcohol addiction died surrounded by friends from the support group she had belonged to for the last four years.

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — A mother of five trying to recover from drug and alcohol addiction died surrounded by friends from the support group she had belonged to for the last four years.

Leah Cardinal, 36, was killed when the car she was driving crossed the centre line and collided with another vehicle.

“It’s just total coincidence that it happened right outside of here,” said Heather Cameron, program co-ordinator for Mothers for Recovery.

Cameron and other members of the group were in the middle of a support meeting at a family centre nearby. The women heard the collision at about 7:20 p.m. on Tuesday and rushed outside to investigate.

They were devastated when they recognized Cardinal inside the mangled car. A few people screamed. Everyone was shocked, said Cameron.

Police and firefighters arrived minutes later. Cardinal had to be pried from the wreckage. She was pronounced dead on arrival in hospital.

“She had all of us around her when she passed on,” Cameron said. “She knows she was loved.”

While Cameron erected a cross outside the family centre Wednesday in memory of Cardinal, RCMP continued their investigation into the crash.

Const. Cheryl Bush said it’s too early to know what caused Cardinal’s vehicle to swerve into oncoming traffic.

The coroner’s service will perform a toxicology test to determine if drugs or alcohol were involved. A mechanical inspection will also be done on the car, she said.

“The RCMP don’t have anything to go on at this point,” Bush said.

A 41-year-old woman and her 14-year-old daughter were in the other car. Bush said they were treated in hospital for minor injuries.

Cardinal joined Mothers for Recovery, a support group for moms struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, in 2005. She spent almost 20 years battling her addictions and supporting herself through prostitution.

Cameron said Cardinal was determined to get off the streets. She cleaned up while she was pregnant with her fifth child, a baby boy, in an effort to be granted custody.

Cardinal also had contact with her four-year-old daughter, who lives in Kamloops. She visited the girl often and brought her daughter home on weekends.

“She was an excellent mom,” Cameron said. “Leah did the best she’s ever done in her whole life this last year.”

But Cardinal relapsed two weeks ago and voluntarily turned her baby over to the Children’s Ministry, Cameron said.

She said Cardinal had planned to go into rehab and get clean again.

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