Peter - Interview 13

Age at interview: 60
Brief Outline: In 2005 Peter's son was killed in a car crash. Tim was only 19 when he died. He was in a car driven by a friend who was drunk. Peter and his wife have experienced a terrible loss. They comfort each other and do not want formal counselling.
Background: Peter is a Sales manager. He is married and has 2 children (1 died). Ethnic background/nationality: White British

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Peter’s son, Tim, was a wonderful young man. He had achieved a lot in his life. He was an accomplished musician and he was a sportsman. He had traveled and had done a diving course. He enjoyed his night life, often wasn’t in until after three in the morning, burnt the candle at both ends and enjoyed his life terrifically.
In May 2005 Tim, was killed in a car crash. He was out with his friend and they were returning home late one night. Tim’s friend was driving. He had had too much to drink and the car went out of control. Tim was killed instantly. His friend was taken to hospital but died soon afterwards. Tim was only 19. His friend was 23.
Peter and his wife heard about the crash when the police arrived in the middle of the night. They were devastated. Peter’s first reaction was to go to his local church and join in the service. Later that afternoon they went to see the site of the car crash and found a horrendous scene. The car had hit a lamppost and then a tree.
They then went on to the see Tim in the city mortuary. They were allowed to see him through a glass screen. They also tried to see Tim’s friend in the local hospital, but when they arrived there they found that he had been moved to another hospital.
Over 300 people turned up for Tim’s funeral. He had many friends from the rugby club and from his band. Tim was buried in a beautiful local cemetery. One of his friends played the Last Post. Peter made a cross to mark the grave. They have yet to choose a memorial stone. About a year after Tim’s death Peter and his wife organised a concert in memory of Tim. They collected some money for Brake.
Tim’s death has left a huge gap in people’s lives. Peter and his wife miss Tim dreadfully. They mourn together and have been supported by friends and colleagues. They decided that they did not want any formal counselling. The police liaison officer called a number of times and was very helpful.
The inquest took place in May 2006. There were a number of witnesses, including the police and others who had been at the scene of the accident and the mortician. The coroner concluded that Tim had died because his friend had had too much to drink and had lost control of the car and had caused death by dangerous driving. The coroner said that had he lived the driver would have been sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Peter does some work for the road safety charity Break. He believes that there should be zero tolerance on driving under the influence of drink. Peter and his wife have suffered a most horrendous loss. Peter says that coping with his loss does get a bit easier as time goes by, but he just takes one day at a time. Peter likes to talk about Tim. He wants to keep his memory alive.
Peter was interviewed in 2008.

Peter and his wife do not want Tim forgotten. One day they may choose a stone to mark his grave....

I don’t want, I don’t want him [Tim] forgotten. We tried to, we tried to run a bit of a charity with; the concert band do a memorial, do a concert every year, October at the local theatre, for charity. We lost him in the May, not the following October but the one after, because that was booked, they done Tim’s World, and they had a musician write a score called Tim’s World, we’ve got the score here signed by him, and we had a memorial concert, There were, 500 people attended, and we were hoping to make some money out of that, we made £160 for Break [the charity].
And we wanted to do something in his name, through the whole of the process, we wanted to do something in Tim’s name, we haven’t actually got a stone for him yet, three and a half years on, we’ve not really been in a place were we feel comfortable. It’s like one of the, one of the last nails in the coffin as it were, one of the blocks of stone and now the proper point of closure as it were, getting his stone, working out what to put on it, because once it is written in stone, you know, you can’t say it’s not and once you’ve written it, it’s there, you know, we’ve never really got to a point where we were happy enough to do that.

The press have helped Peter’s drink-driving campaign. Inaccuracies in a report of the fatal crash...

I saw your newspaper cuttings, did the press bother you, how did you get involved with the press and how much were they too much sometimes?
Well, I was able to cope with them because we get them turn up for various times with regard to drink driving episodes.
At the time, at the time?
At the time I was able to cope, yes. We had three papers, there was a problem with them yes, my wife was very cross about just one or two words they got wrong with regard to what one of them suggested that Tim was older than he was and that he was driving, you know, and she was furious about it. In the whole scheme of things, it was a typing error and no harm was meant but, I think it’s very important not to take too much notice of what the papers say, but you can’t help it, you interrogate every word they write and you judge one column against another, you know, and, because it’s your, it was my boy they were writing about, you know, and everybody was reading it. And we had one or two people say, “I didn’t think Tim was driving” and we’d say “Well, he wasn’t” and so that was awkward but I will say that the people [journalists] were, well two of them were very young and inexperienced but quite pleasant and one of the chaps had been around the circuit quite a few times so he knew how to handle things, but you’ve got to handle these people, you know, it’s in your control to handle what you’re doing and you just have to take charge of things, I think, you know, and only do what you’re able to do.

When Peter heard about his son’s death he went to church. He carried a bible in his van and read...

Well yes it’s what three and a half years ago now, three and three quarters I suppose, it was May 2005, 29 May. It started at 3 o’clock in the morning when the police woke us up, may have been a bit later, and told us we’d lost our son. And it was all a little bit silly from there. I didn’t quite know what to do. I think the wife, the wife had a bath and I went to church, I hadn’t been to church for an age, but you don’t know what to do, you know.


You went to church that morning?
Yes, yes sort of 9 o’clock and went there and told them what the problem was, said I’d lost me lad and they were quite nice and I joined the service and that and got back home.
Would you describe yourself as spiritual person?
Not really, I think I’d describe myself as many others who turn there when we need it, many of the lads in the trenches suddently find a prayer or two helps and as you go all four wheels locked careering towards a concrete wall I think you’d find time for a quick prayer as well but other than that we don’t attend church very often, funerals etc but...
You said you went to church that morning, was that helpful?
Yes it was, it was very helpful and I carry a bible with me now in my van and often I find a hill or two somewhere at lunchtime and go off and have a little read, yes. I had turned that way a little but not to the point were I’m dependent on the church at all.
No, do you attend a particular church?
No, there was, there’s one up the road. I did I do sing with Tim’s band, the choir, or I started to because I make tea for them on a Monday, so I’m the tea boy on a Monday night practice and we have the singers as well which I go to and I did join a church choir for a while but I wasn’t really, I didn’t find it comfortable there, being not good enough, not up to their standard they were a little, some of these church choirs are a little [laughter] are a little bit fussy about who they have in them and I wasn’t up to scratch so I felt it easier to walk away. I mean it was taking up a lot of time as well, my whole Sunday morning I was away from home.
Is that a Church of England choir?
Yes it was yes.
Did you ever talk to the Minister about what had happened?
The Vicar who done the funeral was; gave us a very nice sermon and very nice to talk to but I didn’t feel that he was there on the end of the phone; I didn’t feel that I could talk to him. I’m sure if I’d popped up to the local church he’d have had time for me and I’m not saying he was rude or anything but I didn’t, I didn’t feel it was somewhere where I was welcome or required or wanted to go, yes. 

Peter wanted to cuddle his son but was only allowed to see Tim’s body from behind a glass screen...

And when you got to the mortuary, you said that you weren’t, you had to look at him from behind a screen.
Yes, yes he had, Tim.
How did you feel about that?
No you want to pick him up and cuddle him.
Yes of course. Did they explain why you couldn’t?
Oh yes well in as much as they said that  the only way that we can allow you to see him is through a glass screen  he was in a bit of a pickle, they said, and we’ve tidied him up quite well. So he looks quite nice, you know.
Did she explain to you why you couldn’t have closer contact with him, if you wanted to touch him?
No not really, I don’t suppose, she may well have done, but it was quite clear that  we could only see him from one side of a screen.  and  we accepted that really.
Was that very hard?
Well it was really, I mean all we wanted was, you know, you want to try and sort of bring him back to life because it was only a few hours ago, maybe there’s a way but I mean there obviously wasn’t, you know, it was several hours on but at the time you think you know, maybe if we could cuddle him back to life like, you know, but you can’t get that near, you can’t touch him and he’s there and you have to accept it. Part of accepting that Tim was dead really and we were then considering the fate of his friend and his friends family and what they must have been going through, you know.

Tim died in a terrible car crash. Peter described what happened when the drunk driver lost...

It was Sunday morning of the May bank holiday of the 29 May. And they’d gone out, they’d gone out the Saturday night and they were having too much fun, the driver had had too much to drink lost control of the car and they Tim died on the scene and the driver died the following day, he had a donor card and with oxygen they were able to keep his heart going but there wasn’t really any life in the lad. He was a couple of years older than Tim, he was about 23 and Tim was 19 and a half. And after like about 11 0’clock here all his friends were outside with flowers, there was probably about 30 of them  they couldn’t believe it either and by then  my wife’s mum & dad were here and some of the other family turned up, trying to make some sense of what was going on.
And as the day went on we were able to drive to [the local town] and pulled up at the scene of the accident and we were on our way to the mortuary to see Tim. And at the scene of the accident, it was a horrendous crash the three cars that they overtook and lost control as they went past and took the lamppost out, the car sort of exploded and parts of the car were raining down on the three cars that they’d just overtaken. Which consequently pulled up; the car bent the lamppost double and sprung out of that and went into a big tree that wasn’t moving for anybody and the car in two parts ended up some way down the road and the road was blocked. So by the time we got there about 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon most of the debris had been cleared but we found his house keys, we found his driving licence, his ID keys bits and pieces, other keys, bits and pieces there that should not have been there and of course the place smelt of drink which was in the boot, the kids carry drink in the boot, he had a fridge in there as well, so he was like considered a cool dude, you know, to have chilled drinks in the back of his car.  

After Tim died Peter found that he could take only one day at a time. He recalls what a lovely...

Have you got any message to other people who have been bereaved like yourself?
It gets easier as the years go by. I can live my life from day to day now, when, in the early days, one or two people would commend me about the way I was handling it and asked how I coped and the answer was you don’t cope, you can’t cope you just manage day by day really. And the days number into each other and it’s a week and it’s two weeks and it’s a month and then it’s three and six months and a year goes by, but it’s still such a terrific loss, you’ve got to handle the fact that you’ve lost so much, you know, and you have to try and equate yourself with what you’ve got now and something someone said was that we move forward, we’re not moving back. So we shouldn’t look back, we should look forward, which is easier said than done, but it is a fact that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel I suppose and it is a bit of a tunnel. And there’s no way of getting round the fact that you’ve suffered the most horrendous loss and you have to get to grips with how you move forward, you can only take one day at a time. We’ve all normally got other responsibilities that we need to tend to and we have to tend to them.  I think of Tim and I pray for Tim and I try, and boast what a lovely lad he was  and he was a lovely lad and he was my boy, my little boy and he’s not with us anymore. Fortunately for us he achieved quite a lot in his life, he done things and saw things, he went abroad and he had holidays, he was an accomplished musician and he was a sportsman, he enjoyed his night life, often wasn’t in until after three in the morning, burnt the candle at both ends and enjoyed his life terrifically. So personally I’ve lost him in the best possible way really knowing that what time he had here he enjoyed and he done well and he left a very good impression of himself.
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