A woman has spoken movingly about how her life was ripped apart by a fatal road crash which left her with life-changing injuries.
According to former care worker Caroline Franks, 60, from Glyn Ceiriog, she was struggling to come to terms with what happened until she received support from Brake, a road safety charity that receives funding from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner.
The head on collision happened in September 2018 when she was returning from enjoying a family with her son, her former partner and his mother.
A white van came around a corner on the wrong side of the road and into the path of their car which was being driven by her partner.
She said “We had been for a family meal and were driving home through Chirk at around 8.30pm.
“I was in the passenger seat, my son, Ollie, who was in university at the time, was sat behind the driver’s seat alongside my former partner’s mum who was directly behind me.
“We were near the garden centre in Chirk when I saw a white van. He was going too fast and although it was only a split second it seemed to go in slow motion. I knew he was going to hit us. My then partner had no chance of avoiding him.
“The impact left me with life-changing injuries, my partner’s mum was flown to Stoke with massive injuries from which she died of two weeks later.
“My son had abdominal bruising but escaped serious injury while my partner escaped relatively unhurt.”
She added: “Following the crash I had internal abdominal bleeding and had a lump the size of a rugby ball in my abdomen. I was operated on at Wrexham. The worst injury as it turns out was to my left foot which was totally smashed.
“I can now walk but have a permanent limp and was due to go back to Wrexham to discuss with the consultant whether I should have a further operation to fuse my ankle into a set position but the pandemic means that’s on hold..
“That might help with the constant pain and my inability to stand for long periods. My foot is already held together by screws and pins and I’m not really sure whether I can face another operation.
“Ollie has recovered physically but mentally it’s more difficult. He is still very nervous about getting in a car and will avoid doing so if he can.”
Caroline says after the crash she was left in a wheelchair and split with her partner but was then left not knowing what was happening over the crash.
She said: “I was hearing nothing and was diagnosed by my GP as suffering from depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My GP arranged for me to have counselling but it’s after I contacted Brake and I got most help over the crash.
“I called them and they got the police to talk to me. The police were speaking to my former partner as he was the driver but he wasn’t telling me what was going on.
“I needed to know what was happening to the driver, who I knew had been charged with drink driving, causing the death of my then partner’s mother and causing serious injury to me. Brake kept in touch and helped me.
“The offending driver was eventually sentenced to six years imprisonment which I thought was fair. But then it turns out he got four years for causing death and two years for causing my serious injury but that was to run concurrently. So in truth, he will be out after serving about half of the four years.
“It’s pointless being angry though, you just have to let it go. I’m now unable to do the carer work I was doing as I can’t stand for long periods and I’m working for a friend just doing 10 hours a week clerical work for her business.
“I’ve always been a cautious driver but even more so now. I hate driving and being in a car but living in a rural area I’ve little choice. It was an awful experience and I’m still suffering physically now but things are easier.
“And a lot of that is down to the help and support I received from Brake. I can’t praise them enough.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, a former police inspector, said: “I’m pleased to be able to support Brake in their work with the victims of fatal and serious injury crashes here in North Wales.
“The charity is able to step in and support people at a time when they need help and advice. I know from my own police service the devastating impact a serious road traffic collision can have on families and individuals.
“Anything that can be done to help these victims get the information and help they need should be done.
“I know the charity is putting the funding my office supplies to good use in helping all those affected by serious injury and fatal road crashes across North Wales.”
He added: “Of course I’m bound to say that we could all help to reduce the number of times that the services of Brake are required by thinking about the way we use the road and driving motor vehicles in a responsible manner.
“If we can reduce speeding, drink and drug driving then we can all play a role in saving lives.”
It was a message echoed by Brake’s Partnership Development Manager, Jennifer MacDuff, who thanked Mr Jones for the funding he provided.
She said: “In the past 12 months Brake’s helpline here in North Wales led to three families left devastated after losing loved ones in fatal crashes getting the support they needed .
“In addition we supported seven other people involved in serious injury crashes, sent out 50 of our bereavement packs and 10 children’s information books.
“Following every fatal or serious injury crash police officer s leave a copy of Brake’s bereavement pack with the family.
“The Information and Advice for Bereaved Families and Friends Following Death on the Road pack is updated regularly in consultation with experts.
“It contains information on what happens after a crash, practical issues, how investigations are carried out and information on criminal charges, court cases, claiming compensation and useful organisations.
“A bereaved family member can then call the Brake helpline. Referrals also come in from professionals such as police family liaison officers, medical professionals, schools and other voluntary and charitable organisations.
“The Brake helpline is a quality accredited free phone and online service available across the UK. The service helps callers feel able to cope in the aftermath of a road crash, providing confidential, needs-led support planning for victims, safeguarding those who are high risk and vulnerable.
She added: “Fatal car crashes are akin to a homicide to most bereaved families. They need support and help with issues such as court cases and practical and emotional support.
“It’s a holistic service that works well, not just here in North Wales but across the whole country.
“But without the support of the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner and the funds he provides we simply couldn’t be as effective nor help as many victims as we do in the region.”