Close call

Driver wants oth­ers to learn les­son from crash in­volv­ing cell­phone use

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY RYAN ROSS

It took Ni­cole Belle­fleur six years to fi­nally adopt a daugh­ter from Ethiopia.

On Satur­day it all could have ended when she hit a car that pulled out in front of the two of them while the other driver was us­ing a cell­phone.

“To come so close to los­ing her or to both of us get­ting killed or in­jured af­ter ev­ery­thing we went through to find each other,” she said.

“I didn’t bring her from Ethiopia to Canada to have some­thing like this hap­pen to her.”

Belle­fleur and her two-yearold daugh­ter Ayanna were driv­ing to Bru­denell Satur­day morn­ing for a fam­ily pic­nic.

Ayanna was safely strapped into the car seat her mother had re­cently turned fac­ing for­ward.

The skies and road were both clear.

“It was a gor­geous day in July, which is the best kind of day,” Belle­fleur said.

All of a sud­den a grey car made a left turn in front of her from the other lane. Belle­fleur said she knew in an in­stant she had no way of avoid­ing it. “It came out of nowhere.” The next thing Belle­fleur knew her car was in the ditch, nose down with the airbags de­ployed.

When she looked back, Belle­fleur saw blood com­ing from Ayanna’s mouth, but she was re­lieved to see the girl still buck­led into her seat as her weight pressed against the straps.

Once she was out of the car, Belle­fleur watched as a young man climbed into the ditch and lifted Ayanna out of the car for her. A quick check found no ma­jor in­juries. The blood was from Ayanna bit­ing her tongue.

“Re­lief just washed right over me,” Belle­fleur said.

When it was clear the girl was OK, Belle­fleur dropped to the ground and held Ayanna un­til the RCMP ar­rived.

Although she didn’t see it com­ing, Belle­fleur soon learned why the car pulled in front of her.

She said the man driv­ing the on­com­ing car came over af­ter the crash to say he had been us­ing his cell­phone.

“I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘I just don’t have time to deal with that in­for­ma­tion right now’.”

It is some­thing Belle­fleur said she has been think­ing about since then, as she con­sid­ers how lucky ev­ery­one in­volved in the crash was. The front of Belle­fleur’s car was smashed and the rear pas­sen­ger door on the other ve­hi­cle took the brunt of the dam­age. Both ve­hi­cles were writ­ten off. The driver of the grey car didn’t have any se­ri­ous in­juries and Ayanna was OK.

Belle­fleur says she had a few mi­nor in­juries. She said it felt like some­one punched her in the nose, she had bruises from her seat­belt and she took a trip to the hos­pi­tal to deal with pain in her an­kle, which has since im­proved. Belle­fleur re­al­ized things could have been much worse.

“Bruises are noth­ing when you con­sider the im­pact that we had,” she said.

Belle­fleur said she doesn’t feel any anger to­ward the other driver, but she feels dis­cour­aged know­ing peo­ple are still out there us­ing their cell­phones while driv­ing.

“I’m also feel­ing mo­ti­vated, driven and all fired up to get this mes­sage out there.”

Belle­fleur said she hopes her fam­ily’s story will strike a chord.

“I hope that maybe drives some sense into peo­ple.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ni­cole Belle­fleur was driv­ing with her two-year-old daugh­ter strapped into her car seat when a ve­hi­cle came into their lane and col­lided with their car, send­ing into the ditch. The other driver told Belle­fleur he was on his cell­phone.

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