Brenda Brown, whose daughter Chloe Kaniusis (shown in photograph at base of speaker stand) was killed by a drunk driver in 2014, spoke in Red Deer to launch MADD Canada’s 2021 Project Red Ribbon campaign for a sober driving holiday season. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)

Brenda Brown, whose daughter Chloe Kaniusis (shown in photograph at base of speaker stand) was killed by a drunk driver in 2014, spoke in Red Deer to launch MADD Canada’s 2021 Project Red Ribbon campaign for a sober driving holiday season. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)

Mother shares details of daughter’s death in Red Deer: MADD launches sober driving campaign

The message is don’t drink and drive over the holiday season

Chloe Kaniusis, 30, was a wife and mom of two boys when she died in the horrific head-on crash near Eckville in 2014.

But she will always be “our baby girl” to her mother Brenda Brown.

Brown shared heart-wrenching details of her late daughter’s life and death on Monday, at the launch of the MADD’s 2021 Project Red Ribbon campaign that urges people to drive only while sober during the upcoming holiday season.

Brown recalled how she and Kaniusis, the younger of her two daughters, had gone Christmas shopping in Red Deer. They had enjoyed a special day out and were returning home to Condor when an impaired driver smashed into their SUV on a bridge near Eckville.

Chloe was killed instantly. Brown was trapped inside the wreckage for three hours.

She recalled the agony of being pinned inside the vehicle, unable to help her child.

“So many times I still find myself still screaming inside,” wishing it was all a bad dream, said an emotional Brown, at a press conference outside Red Deer’s north-side RCMP detachment.

She now spends time with her two grandsons and helps keep their mother’s memory alive.

Kaniusis was described as a loving person and a talented athlete, who played with the Tom Bast Bantam Sliders during a championship run. She had received a full sports scholarship to an Oklahoma university, but was forced to re-calibrate her life after a rotary cuff injury.

Kaniusis became a teacher. Brown said her daughter had begun pursuing a Master’s degree, but was taking a leave to raise her two sons — who were only four and one year old at the time of her death.

Brown said the loss of Kaniusis shattered the hopes and dreams of the people who loved her best. The lives of her husband, her sons, her sister and her parents were instantly changed due to one person’s disastrous decision to drive while intoxicated.

Although Canada’s first impaired driving laws were enacted a century ago, in 1921, some people are still consuming alcohol, cannabis or other drugs and then getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.

For the first time in eight years, the police-reported impaired driving rate in Canada went up (to 19 per cent from 18 per cent) in 2019 from 2018, ending a long downwards trend.

Jaymie-Lyne Hancock, MADD’s (Mothers Against Drink Driving) Canada National president, lost a brother to a crash caused by a drunk driver in 2014. She noted that 10 impaired driving charges are laid in Canada — every hour.

These deaths and injuries are not a result from an accident, but from a choice that somebody makes, said Hancock.

Sgt. Michael Zufferli, of Red Deer RCMP Traffic Services, said drunk driver-caused crashes even take a psychological toll on the emergency personnel helping at the scene. “The ripple spreads… the absolute devastation…”

Red Deer Emergency Services Platoon Chief Kevin Bettesworth still remembers being called to a crash scene on one of his first days on the job. A young man from a prominent local family had been drinking and was killed in a single-vehicle roll-over.

If he had not made the choice to drive, his family wouldn’t have dealt with this devastating aftermath, and many first responders would also have been spared trauma, he added.

“That person was known to the whole community and we all shared that loss.”

Bettesworth now tells his three teenage sons that he will come pick them up, “unconditionally,” at any time of day or night if they are under the influence of alcohol.

The 2021 Project Red Ribbon campaign started with the tying of red ribbons on police vehicles. On Monday afternoon, police also held a sobriety checkpoint. The campaign will run through to January 3.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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