Accused recounts crash that killed her two sons

A Nanaimo mother recounted her memories of the December 2008 car crash that claimed the lives of her two sons this week.

A Nanaimo mother recounted her memories of the December 2008 car crash that claimed the lives of her two sons during her Supreme Court trial in Nanaimo this week.

Clare Bekkers, 38, is facing eight charges relating to a Dec. 22, 2008 collision on the Island Highway near the Cassidy Inn.

Bekkers, driving northbound on the Island Highway in a Ford Escape, crossed the centre line into southbound traffic, triggering a multi-car collision that killed her two sons and injured her two daughters.

She took the stand in her own defence Monday and Tuesday.

Bekkers said she drove to Victoria from Nanaimo on Dec. 20, 2008 with her four children and admitted to snorting $80 worth of cocaine by herself in her parents’ basement suite that night, while her two daughters were being looked after by her parents and her two sons were at her husband’s parents’ house.

On Sunday, Dec. 21, Bekkers said she went to her friend Carolyn Daniels’s mother’s house, where she and one daughter spent the night, and Bekkers and Daniels drank alcohol together. The other daughter stayed at her parents’ house with a friend.

When Bekkers woke up the next morning – the day of the crash – she said she felt hung over, but not tired or impaired.

“I did not feel like I could not work my vehicle,” she testified.

Bekkers gathered her children from her parents’ and in-laws’ houses. Her mother and father-in-law had to follow Bekkers to drop off her daughter’s friend in Langford, as the Ford Escape only had five seats.

She doesn’t remember anyone trying to stop her from driving back to Nanaimo that day, although Daniels earlier testified that she suggested Bekkers stay in Victoria because it had snowed.

“There was no reason,” said Bekkers. “It was just another drive home from Victoria.”

Just before the Cassidy Inn, Bekkers said she decided to move into the fast lane and as she turned, the car kept going.

“It just slid right across,” said Bekkers. “I felt like I was flying. My first instinct after that was, don’t slam on the brakes.”

The next thing she remembers is one of her children crying and the car at a stop.

“I got out. There was a lot of people around and they were all telling me what to do,” said Bekkers. “All I wanted to do was get [my daughter] because she was crying.”

Bekkers, who had a punctured lung, and one of her daughters were taken to an ambulance.

The paramedic left to check on the other children and when he came back, he told her that her other daughter was being flown to hospital in Vancouver, but that she would be OK. When Bekkers asked about her sons, the man shook his head.

“I blacked out,” said an emotional Bekkers. “That was it.”

Under questioning by the Crown, Bekkers denied drinking any alcohol after waking up Dec. 22. Earlier in the trial, Daniels testified that Bekkers told her she took a sip of alcohol when she woke up.

Crown lawyers also asked whether she was changing lanes frequently or tailgating as some witnesses claimed earlier in the trial, but Bekkers said she did not recall.

On Tuesday, the defence also called four people – her father, her father-in-law, her mother-in-law and a friend – who saw Bekkers before she left Victoria the day of the crash.

The four witnesses all said that Bekkers appeared normal when they saw her that day and that they would have stopped her from driving home if they thought she might be impaired.

Holly Mescheder, Bekkers’s friend, said she smelled “stale” alcohol on Bekkers’s body when she dropped off her daughter, who had had a sleepover with Bekkers’s daughter the night before, but she wasn’t concerned about her ability to drive.

“I can smell it when one of my clients has a glass of wine the night before,” said Mescheder, an esthetician.

All four witnesses described Bekkers as a loving mother and said they were not aware of her cocaine use.

The trial resumes Tuesday (Dec. 6).