The parents of a young woman killed by a drunk driver are going to great lengths to prevent him from drinking and driving again.
Patricia and Gerry Smits lost their only daughter, 19-year-old Angela Smits, in May 2004 when she was struck head-on by a drunk driver. Her boyfriend, 20-year-old Michael MacLean, was also killed in the crash.
“It’s any parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child, and to go through this, has been a tremendous loss for all of us,” says Patricia Smits, a resident of Sydney River, N.S.
The driver, Michael Gerard Cooper of Richmond County, is set to be released from the Dorchester Penitentiary next Wednesday after serving his full seven-year sentence.
His release comes with 22 conditions, including a two-year ban from drinking alcohol, but the Smits are taking matters into their own hands.
Their lawyer has written to the provincial bodies responsible for selling and regulating alcohol, saying it’s their responsibility to ensure Cooper isn’t sold or served alcohol, and that they will be held legally responsible if another person is killed or injured by his drinking and driving.
“That they go to their outlet stores and retailers and post a picture and the name for their employee to view, so we can refrain from having him served alcohol in the province of Nova Scotia,” says Gerry Smits.
“We’re trying to prevent another innocent family from going through what we have gone through over the past nine-and-a-half years,” says Patricia.
Parole board documents indicate that, during conversations with his parole officer, Cooper has admitted he was in the habit of drinking and driving at least once a week.
According to the documents, Cooper also admitted he would likely continue to drink alcohol, regardless of imposed conditions. He also admitted that, given the chance, he would probably drive a motor vehicle again, despite a court order banning him for life from driving.
Cooper was denied parole three times due to concerns he would reoffend.
“Somebody has to notify the public of this person’s behavior because when he comes out, it’s too easy for him to access alcohol and it’s too easy to access a vehicle,” says Gerry.
The Smits admit it would be difficult to fully prevent Cooper from drinking and driving, but they say taking certain steps would at least reduce the chance of another family suffering a terrible loss at Cooper’s hands.
The Utility and Review Board and Alcohol and Gaming Division confirm they have received the letter.
The UARB is not commenting on the matter at this time but the Alcohol and Gaming Division says a committee will review the request.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald