Two families united in grief by the car crash that killed their teenage sons have become the first to pledge support for The Chronicle Too Young To Die campaign.
The families of 16-year-olds Tristan Cook and Dominic Arnold want to highlight the risks of reckless driving to prevent others losing a child to a car crash.
The Christleton High School sixth- formers died as passengers in a car driven by 18-year-old Michael Wood, of Hoole, which crashed on the A41 near Dragonhall on December 10 last year.
Wood, also a Christleton sixth- former, was last week convicted of careless driving at the time of the crash, and dangerous driving earlier that night, when he performed handbrake turns, wheel spins and a long overtake close to a bend on the A41.
It was Tristan’s father, Haydyn Cook, who first asked Chronicle readers to pledge to help cut road deaths.
His wife Dorothy, Tristan’s mother Meriel Pritchard and Dominic’s mother and stepfather Erica and Damien Murphy, are also supporting the campaign to raise awareness about reckless driving.
Meriel, a lecturer at the Social and Communications Studies department at Chester University, said: “There is something extraordinarily fundamental about the pain when you lose your own child. Something physical as well as emotional just rips you apart.”
Meriel was the first parent to find out about the crash, when a police officer called at her Littleton home.
She said: “I got woken up by the doorbell ringing incessantly at 3am. I was on my own in the house and as I came downstairs I thought to myself ‘why is he ringing so hard?’, then I saw the silhouette of someone standing there who was clearly not Tristan.
“I opened the door, the police officer asked if I was Tristan’s mother and I said: ‘Just tell me he is all right’. He told me to sit down and I knew at that point. From then on it felt as though I was living in a film and as though the script had almost been preordained and I was just observing what was going on.”
Meriel called her ex-husband Haydn at his home in Rowton, where he lives with his wife Dorothy.
He remembered: “The police thought Tristan was 19 because he had fake ID on him. For a moment your heart leaps at the thought it might not be him – you wouldn’t wish this on anyone else, but there is a glimmer of hope and you grasp at it.
“I had to go to identify the body. You just don’t believe you are ever going to have to do something like that.
“He just looked intact – we heard later that he had horrific internal injuries but he just had a little bit of blood on his ear and that was the only outward sign of what had happened.”
The family is now facing a second Christmas without Tristan.
Hadyn said: “We are going to have as good a Christmas as we can. Last year we put Tristan’s Christmas presents on his grave. We will go to the service at Christleton church and we will visit Tristan’s grave there.
“When people are driving I don’t think they realise the risk and the potential consequences of what they are doing – to snuff out two lives is just so awful.”
The week of the crash, Dominic’s mother and stepfather were in Australia for a wedding.
They last spoke to Dominic on Saturday, December 9, when he told them The Meadows were flooded. Hours later they received a call to say their son was dead.
Damien said “You can’t really grasp the enormity of it. The 24-hour journey back was just horrendous, but we were numb.”
Erica added “The worst thing was walking back into the house and seeing how he had left it – things like a half-finished glass of Coke on the table and his wet towel still on his bedroom floor. It was still wet. It was just horrendous.”
Of the Too Young To Die campaign, Damien said: “We want something good to come out of this because we don’t want other families to experience what we have experienced. It is such a waste of two good, solid, young men who were always going to give more to the world than they took out of it.”
Erica added: “The driving age should be raised to 18 because they are too immature at 17. There ought to be a probation period before they are fully licensed and they should do the Pass Plus advanced driving course. They shouldn't be allowed more than one passenger or to drive after 10pm.”