As the Christmas party season begins, pub landlady Pat Cardus tells REBECCA EDWARDS how drink- drive tragedy struck her family twice – and how she wants to stop it happening to anyone else.
Landlady Pat Cardus could not enter her own bar for days after hearing her second brother had been killed in a crash with a drunken driver last March.
Pat, who runs the Crown Hotel in Tarporley, said: “It was hard for me to come down and serve people.
“A lot of the younger regulars call me Mum – I was paranoid, watching them all the time, I didn’t want anything to happen to them as well.”
She and husband Carl have a zero-tolerance policy on drink- drivers and often take their car keys off them if they refuse to call for a lift home after one too many.
Pat said: “I have had arguments with people about it. It is all about re-educating them about the danger they put themselves and other people in if they drink-drive.”
Pat and her family found out Neil Jex had died alongside his fiancée Paula Gilbert and two children when a friend recognised their mangled car on TV news footage in March and alerted Pat’s stepfather.
He called the police who broke the news that Paula’s eight-year-old son Macauley was the only survivor of the crash in Newcastle when delivery driver Scott Easton, of Stockton, Tyneside, hit their car.
Easton, who was jailed for seven years for causing death by dangerous driving, had drunk lager and vodka at a party the night before, then left for work after only a few hours sleep.
Pat said: “People think a few hours’ sleep and a shower will be enough to sober them up – but the alcohol will still be in their system.
“I had a phone call from my mum and was devastated. My brother and Paula had just got engaged and were driving to my mum’s house in Blackburn to tell her and my step-dad.
“It brought back memories of my other brother David Elton, who was in a crash when I was in sixth form.
“He was on a motorbike and a drunken driver was on the wrong side of the road and hit him. He went through the windscreen and hit the headrest and was paralysed for five years. Then one night he was just sitting on the sofa with his wife and dropped dead. They found a blood clot that had been dormant since the crash had come free and killed him.”
The double tragedy in Pat’s life has left her and Carl determined to stamp out drink-driving in their pub, and other pubs in the area through Pat’s role as chairwoman of Tarporley Pubwatch.
She said: “Our regulars don’t drink-drive because they know how strongly we feel about it. We have leaflets and information that we leave on the bar.
“The younger generation are very good, but this is a rural farming community and some of the older generation are used to driving home. It is a case of re-educating them about the risks they are taking with their lives and other people’s lives when they drink-drive.”
She added: “Drinking is a social thing, a lot of our regulars come out because they have nobody at home to keep them company and they just don’t think about what could happen to them.”
Asked for a message for anybody who might consider drink-driving over Christmas, Pat said: “Just don’t do it. It’s as simple as that.”