FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – John Westhaver knows firsthand what the consequences can be as a result of a poor decision. Life can change in a moment.
North Peace Secondary School students heard his story on Tuesday morning as part of ICBC’s road safety campaign.
Westhaver grew up in a small town in New Brunswick and was a typical teenager in his eyes.
“I was a typical teenage kid. I liked driving, I loved fast cars and I loved pushing the limits.”
It was his last year of high school and he was just months away from graduation but on April 29, 1994, his life changed forever.
“It’s Friday night and we’re looking for a party, something fun to happen and we hadn’t heard about any parties yet so we decided to go on a road trip.”
Westhaver was with three of his friends that evening when they decided to go to the pool hall. He says before the pool hall, they weren’t of age to drink yet and had to find someone else to buy the group alcohol and were successful.
“Every so often we had to run back to the car and slam them (the beers) back and then we would run back inside.”
They spent some time at the pool hall, engaging with girls and, playing pool. Then, one of the three friends that had not been drinking said that he was going to be leaving. Westhaver says that the other friends and himself had to decide if they wanted to stay at the pool hall or go home with the friend who was sober.
“We chose to get a ride with Jimmy, he was our Designated Driver.”
He says the group got into the car and continued to consume alcohol.
“We were speeding along the highway, carrying on, drinking on. We were always speeding, always pushing the speed limit.”
The next thing he remembers, he woke up in a hospital. He was covered in bandages and 75% of his body had been burned.
“My world was turned upside down and it became a nightmare.”
The car was going close to 105 per hour in a zone that had a posted speed limit of 60. The driver of the vehicle, Jimmy, was ejected from the car and died upon impact of the pavement. His two other friends, Aaron and Jason (who was John’s best friend) died in the fire as a result of the crash.
Originally, doctors thought that Westhaver wouldn’t make it as the damage from the burns on his body was extensive. However, he beat the odds and lived to tell his story.
His message is simple: Speak up. It doesn’t matter if you are the passenger or a driver, if you feel unsafe about a situation, you have the right to ask that person to slow down or drive safely and not text or be on the phone when you are in the car. One decision can lead to a life altering tragedy.