July 1 is a day meant for celebration. Instead, it turned out to be the most terrible day for the now-grieving families of two teenagers killed in a rural car crash near Red Deer.
The parents of Ashleigh Smith, 16, of Springbrook, and John Dolliver, 18, of Penhold, describe their children as good kids who were looking ahead to the future.
Smith and Dolliver were passengers in a car that crashed at about 11:30 p.m. on Canada Day on Range Road 261, at the intersection of Hwy 595 east of Red Deer. There were three other people in the car. Two were teen girls — one who suffered serious facial injuries and the other was not seriously injured. The third person, the driver, a 19-year-old male, was also not seriously injured. Blackfalds RCMP continue to investigate the single-vehicle collision.
Tanus Smith and Tammy Dolliver, the mothers of Ashleigh and John respectively, were able to speak through their pain and tears on Tuesday.
Smith said the three girls in the car are all close friends, as are their families. The girls had gone out with the two teenage boys to watch the fireworks at Sylvan Lake. Later they had planned to go to a rural party but one of the girls’ parents told her daughter she had to come home.
At 11:10 p.m. Smith said she received a text from Ashleigh that they were on their way home. She would not hear from her again. By midnight the parents of the girls had become quite worried and were thinking of calling police when an RCMP officer called to say there had been an accident and they needed to go to the hospital.
Smith said when they got to Red Deer Regional Hospital and her daughter was not on the admitting list, she knew then her because of her experience as a nurse that Ashleigh was probably deceased. Later that night, Smith and her former husband, Peter Smith, did learn that their daughter had died at the scene.
“She was a good kid. Only a couple times where they might be a little late but she always called and said they would be a little late.”
“She’s not a thrill seeker. … That’s not her.”
“She’s the kind of kid that if she’s a passenger she would be watching the speedometer the whole time,” her mother said.
Ashleigh worked part-time at Chopped Leaf in Gasoline Alley. “She was one of the kindest friendliest people. She was outgoing. She always had a smile on her face.”
She was very close to her 88-year-old great grandmother who lives in Red Deer. “They did lots together,” Smith said. When she wasn’t hanging out with her friends she was with her family.
After school ended she wanted to take a year off and then study to work as a unit secretary at the hospital.
A Grade 11 student at Notre Dame High School, Ashleigh would have been 17 on Aug. 1. She was so excited to be graduating next year and she had made it to the “homestretch,” Smith said. She has three other children, Joshua 14, Brandon, 13, and Sylis, 9. They are “shocked and overwhelmed” she said. “Nothing like this has ever happened.”
“It was devastating because Ashleigh was my delight, and energy to this family, and now it’s gone.”
“We’ve been robbed. She’s been robbed. John’s family.” After their daughter’s funeral on Friday, they will stop by John’s parents’ home in Penhold to pay their respects. The venue for Ashleigh’s funeral may change and those attending should check the obituary notice in Thursday’s Red Deer Advocate.
John’s mother, Tammy Dolliver, said she didn’t mind talking about her son who graduated from Lindsey Thurber High School on May 6 because “he was a wonderful boy.”
He would have been 19 on Dec. 9. He moved to Alberta from Nova Scotia with his parents Tammy and Scott, and his older sister Brianna in 2008.
“It’s hard. It’s something that I never ever thought that I would have to deal with. But he was such a wonderful boy. … There’s a part of him that we’re just realizing who he was. He touched so many people. Literally hundreds of people. Everybody’s got a story.”
After word broke that John had died, dozens of his friends gathered at the Joffre Bridge on the Red Deer River where John had a secret fishing hole. They took his fishing rod and tackle box and met there, and released balloons in his memory.
John was hoping to become a millwright or heavy duty mechanic but with the economy being down it was proving hard to find him an apprenticeship. He was working full time for the summer at the Easthill Save-On-Foods and maybe going to take a heavy equipment operator course in the fall.
John loved his 1993 Dodge truck and was going to restore it with his father. “It was his pride and joy. … He didn’t want a new truck, he wanted this,” Dolliver said. Now it will be restored in John’s memory by his father and best friend Dan Dubrule, and John’s ashes will stay in the truck.
They plan to take the truck to Cruise Nights once it’s done.
“He was a gentle giant. He was a big boy but he was as kind as a kitten,” Dolliver said.
She and her husband were camping at Red Lodge Park on Canada Day when RCMP called her at 3:30 a.m. and said they were coming out to meet them. Dolliver said she knew something was very wrong but thought it was about her daughter because John’s truck was in their garage waiting for a part.
Dolliver said she insisted the officer tell her over the phone, and so he told her that John had died in a single-vehicle collision.
“He was always the designated driver,” his mother said. But this night he told his mom he was going to a house party later, and his best friend was going to stay over, drive them to the party and then take John to work in the morning.
The Dollivers will open their home in Penhold on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. where those who know John are welcome.
“People can come, celebrate, tell stories, laugh, smile remember him. We just want to celebrate the good things and the blessings that he gave.”
“He never once gave us one day of trouble. I’m not sure why he was chosen to leave the world so soon. Every day was a blessing.”