Mounties

UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Mourning parents watch CounterAttack blitz from Langley roadside

Kassandra was killed by a drunk driver more than five years ago, and holidays are still no easier.




It’s been five and a half years since Markita and Victor Kaulius lost their daughter to an impaired driver.

But not a day goes by that this couple does long to have their child back in their arms.

“We’ve been given a lifetime sentence of living without our daughter – without Kassandra,” said Markita, who works at the Langley RCMP and has an understanding of the justice system.

These Surrey parents were on hand Friday night (Dec. 30) at a multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional CounterAttack campaign held on the Langley Bypass, where Mounties checked between 800 and 1,000 vehicles. They issued 13 roadside blood-alcohol tests, issued one 90-day driving suspension, and one 12-hour suspension. They also issued a further six violation tickets that ranged from speeding to vehicle defects, to not wearing a seatbelt, explained Surrey RCMP’s traffic Sgt. Gary Clarke.

 

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They were out in the cold night, on the side of the wet roadway, to send a message of just how catastrophic someone’s decision to drink and drive can be.

Their daughter, 22-years-old at the time of her “untimely and totally preventable” death, was taken by an impaired driver who T-boned her car travelling more than 100 km/h while the Clayton Height Secondary grad was on her way home from coaching softball in Surrey.

Kassandra was crushed to death by a driver running a red light.

The driver ran away from the scene, and police indicate she was twice the legal limit to drive when they found her a short time later hiding in some nearby bushes.

Surrey’s Natasha Warren later pleaded guilty was sentenced to 37 months in jail and admitted to drinking a bottle of wine while watching a hockey game, before getting behind the wheel of her van.

“The sentencing being handed out are ridiculous,” she said, not only pointing at her own daughter’s case, but 125 other cases across the country represented by Families for Justice.

Just a few months after burying their youngest for three children, they founded the Family For Justice – a support group for other families who have lost a loved one to an impaired driving, and lobbying for changes to drinking and driving laws and tougher penalties.

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It wasn’t just a picture of Kassandra, but dozens of other Canadians killed by drunk drivers, that made up a quilt-like banner hanging on the side of a pickup truck that was parked alongside police cruisers at Friday’s CounterAttack .

The roadblock – held jointly by the Surrey and Langley RCMP – was stopping drivers heading both east and west along the Langley Bypass.

While most motorists were given a cheerful greeting, questioned if they’d been drinking – and if not, then sent on their way, a few others were detained for further discussion. Some of those discussions resulted in roadside blood-alcohol-level testing, and even a few arrests.

“Impaired driving crashes are preventable incidents, yet impaired driving remains in the top three of contributing factors for fatal crashes in B.C.,” said Cpl. Scotty Schumann.

“When celebrating with alcohol this year, help us reverse these statistics by making good choices.”

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Please plan ahead for a safe ride home, pleaded Leanne Cussap, the road safety coordinator for ICBC Langley, pointing to designated drivers, taxis, transit, and Operation Red Nose as safe options.

“We don’t want any other family to go through this,” Markita said, watching Mounties pull over more drivers as the hours clicked by on the roadblock.

“We’ve had education and awareness here for 40 years, and it’s still not getting through to so many people,” she told the Langley Advance.

She’s hoping government will redefine impaired driving causing death as vehicular homicide, and with it mandate a stricter minimum penalty. And likewise, in her role as president of Families for Justice, she’s lobbying for changes to the impaired driving charges to also carry with them strictly enforced minimum sentences.

“Impaired driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. Every year, impaired drivers leave a terrible trail of death, injury, heartbreak, and destruction,” Markita said.

She still finds birthdays, special occasions, and holidays – such as Christmas terribly painful without Kassandra.

In a Facebook post, Mom wrote to Kassandra on Christmas morning: “Merry Christmas Sweetheart! Missing you and wishing you could be with us. Christmas has never been the same since your life was taken and I don’t think it can ever be the same again. I held your picture in my hands today to wish you a Merry Christmas, There is something terribly wrong that this is the only way that we can share Christmas with you. Losing you continues to be such a struggle.”

• Click here to see more photos from Friday’s CounterAttack

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