The allegedly drunk driver of a car that crashed on its way back to Chisasibi, causing the deaths of three passengers, has only now been charged in the incident – over a year later.
Irene Pepabano is charged with seven different counts, including three counts of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol causing death.
The accident changed Kenny Petawabano’s life. His wife Lydia died in the accident.
“We were in Radisson drinking at the bar,” he recounted. “We left around 3 am, but when I came out, the driver had already taken off and left me. I stayed at the motel that night. I called one of my friends around 10 the next morning and they said there was an accident on the road back into the community.”
When he called to get some definite information, he was told by police to come to the clinic.
“When I got there, the ministers (Jacob Sealhunter and Harry Duff] stopped me and told me what happened. I was devastated and in shock. They took me to a conference room with the other families. It was really sad. Everyone was crying and hugging me. I felt like everything came to an end. Then I remembered my children were still there,” Petawabano said, still trying to come to grips with his loss.
The Crown Prosecutor in Rouyn-Noranda, Marie-Eve Rondeau, said that charges could have been laid earlier because certain aspects were beyond her control. “The file was not complete so we needed more information from the police,” she explained. “That caused a delay. Also, since it’s a serious file, we took our time.”
The news is a bit of a consolation for Petawabano. “I feel very relieved. I was really down that nothing was happening, but now I feel like something has been lifted off my chest. It was very hard. In the Cree environment, people don’t usually talk about it,” he said, somberly.
The loss of his wife is hard on his four children. “During the day it wasn’t too bad for the kids, they’d laugh and have their minds on other things, but when the night came it showed that it really hurt,” he sobbed.
Holidays were especially hard for the Petawabano family.
“When my wife was gone our lives changed forever,” he said. “That Christmas I felt like there was no Christmas for us.”
Not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about his wife and what they had together as a family. “I dream about my wife almost once a month as if she’s still alive. My kids dream about her and we talk about the interpretation of the dream.”
To deal with his pain, Petawabano visited a psychologist. After the first visit, however, he couldn’t bring himself to go back. He felt as if he was being misunderstood.
He realizes that therapy will do him good and until he goes back, one of the things he’s been doing for peace of mind is reading books about coping with grief.
Until then, he has a lot of issues to deal with on his own, including the anger he has towards the driver of the car that snatched his wife from him forever.