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'It still doesn’t feel real': Families remember their loved ones on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims



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For Rebecca Langford-Fox, a lot of the last nine months does not make sense.

The 23-year-old's world has been torn apart by the tragic events of February 10, and the four days that preceded it.

Her mum, Rachael Bond, had been driving home from Mildenhall towards Bury St Edmunds on February 6, when she was involved in a head-on crash.

Rachael Bond.
Rachael Bond.

Rebecca was on her break from her job as a carer when she received a phone call from her brother, who she says never calls her, to tell her what had happened.

Today marks the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which takes place every year on the third Sunday in November.

The official website states it 'is a high-profile global event to remember the many millions who have been killed and seriously injured on the world’s roads and to acknowledge the suffering of all affected victims, families and communities.'

Rachael Bond died earlier this year. Picture: Rebecca Langford-Fox
Rachael Bond died earlier this year. Picture: Rebecca Langford-Fox

In the five years to 2020 there were 67 deaths relating to crashes on Suffolk's roads.

Ms Bond is just one of the many whose lives have been lost to collisions.

"I called him back and he said that mum had been in an accident, so I called her straight away," Rebecca said, explaining what happened on February 6.

"I was on the phone to her and I was speaking to her; she was crying, she was scared. I was crying because I was scared, but she was all right."

Rachael Bond died earlier this year. Picture: Rebecca Langford-Fox (53195631)
Rachael Bond died earlier this year. Picture: Rebecca Langford-Fox (53195631)

Rachael, who had just turned 41, was transported to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge alongside her husband, John. As the days passed, there had been hope that Rachael would be able to leave hospital and return home on Valentine's Day weekend.

However, Rebecca and her four siblings got the phone call no relative wants to receive.

"They were both in Addenbrooke’s, and then four days later I get a call saying she is dead," she said.

"None of us knew why, we weren’t expecting it.

"When she was still trapped in the car I was talking to her. And then I was talking to her when she was in Addenbrooke’s. I was talking to her on the day she died.

"It doesn’t make sense. It still doesn’t feel real."

Rebecca has countless memories of her mum. She remembers how bubbly and smiley she was, and how she was a 'cool mum'.

The death of their mum has rocked their family, and her siblings, Brendon, Tyereke, Sara-Leigh and Hayden, feel numb.

It has left Rebecca, of Stowmarket, struggling to go and visit Rachael's grave or going to see her friends.

"I can’t go to the grave because she shouldn’t be there. I just can’t get myself to go there. When I have days when I am crying and I can’t stop, I get the urge that I have to go, but I am not there for more than 10 minutes because I am just standing at a place where I shouldn’t be.

"I am too young, mum didn’t get to watch us live. None of us have had kids yet, none of us are married yet.

"I am not interacting with people anymore. I am not socialising, I don’t talk to my two best-mates anymore."

Lauren Danks

Claire Danks, of Soham, had gone to a yoga class with her daughter Lauren, 22, on the morning of November 10, 2016, before Lauren started work.

A normal day, she was due to return at home at around 10pm, but Claire and her husband started to grow concerned when she did not turn up. Little did they know Lauren would not return home.

"My husband and I were sitting in the lounge together - Lauren and I had quite a unique relationship and there is no way if she was going to be late I wouldn’t have been contacted," she said.

Lauren Danks with mum Claire. Picture: Cambridgeshire Constabulary
Lauren Danks with mum Claire. Picture: Cambridgeshire Constabulary

"Automatically we knew there was something wrong.

"Obviously we didn’t realise what was wrong, so I tried to ring her and there was no reply. That was out of her character, so my husband drove out to look for her, thinking maybe she had broken down.

"Not at one point did what had happened enter our heads."

Lauren Danks
Lauren Danks

Lauren had been killed by a drink-driver, travelling at over 120mph on the A11.

Neil Curtis, of High Street, Lakenheath, was jailed for seven years and banned from driving for eight and a half years.

Mrs Danks' husband had called her to say that Lauren had been in an accident, and that he would come and pick her up before they went to the hospital.

As she was waiting, a police car pulled up.

Lauren Danks with her family. Picture: Cambridgeshire Constabulary
Lauren Danks with her family. Picture: Cambridgeshire Constabulary

She said: "He had got out and there was just a sheer look of horror on his face as he held my hands and told me that Lauren had been killed.

"After that moment, our life changed forever and our world fell apart. There isn’t any words that you can put to that. I don’t think you can even imagine what that feels like."

Claire remembers Lauren as the 'most special daughter', who was kind and thoughtful and as someone who loved life.

However, what stands out when thinking of their loved ones is their unique passions.

"She absolutely loved Elsa and Disney, even being 22. Disney was her favourite place on earth," Claire said.

"She even dressed as Elsa for a girls birthday party, as she had this lovely long blonde hair that she had naturally."

November 10 marked the anniversary of Lauren's death, and the family usually go away to try and escape the memories of the events of five years ago.

It allows for others to pay their respects at what the family know as her garden. After visiting a few days ago, Claire was left feeling 'overwhelmed' by how many tributes there were.

Despite the 'great comfort' it brought her knowing how loved Lauren was, everyday remains difficult for the Danks.

Claire said: "Most days are hard, not most, every day. Every day you are living it and you are functioning pretty well, but just sometimes you remove yourself from any other demands so you can deal with your own chaos in your head.

"For us, five years nothing has changed, but for people everyday, five years on they are still coming and still remembering her."

To help cope, Claire is now an ambassador for the Road Victims Trust, a charity based in Bedfordshire.

Although they do not help people in Suffolk at the moment, they are looking to expand into the region.

Mark Turner, chief executive of the trust, said: "The road victims trust cares for people in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire and we work in relationship with the police.

"Every collision goes to the charity and we give a face-to-face counselling service for as long as it is needed.

"We do work across borders and I would absolutely love to offer it across Suffolk. That would be a question of how we can work with the police and crime commissioner."

Statistics

In 2020, 10 people were killed on roads in Suffolk as a result of a crash. Four were on a single carriageway, while two were on a dual carriageway and two on slip roads.

Between 2016 and last year, 20 pedestrians were killed due to accidents, most of which occurred on rural roads.

During that period, almost 1,500 people were killed or seriously injured due to crashes involving vehicles. 67 of those saw people lose their lives.

Prior to 2016, figures show that there were 33 crashes which resulted in people being killed in 2015, while between 2007 and 2015, 274 people lost their lives due to accidents on the roads.

In Essex, figures are much worse.

In the years 2016 to 2020, a total of 221 people were killed as a result of crashes on the road.

Figures in Norfolk have revealed that between 2016 and 2020, 168 people died, while in Cambridgeshire, 156 people lost their lives due to crashes in the same time frame.

While there are countless factors that can cause a crash, police have issued the following advice to minimise your chances of being involved in a collision.

Gary Miller, an inspector in the Roads and Armed Policing Team at Suffolk Police, said: "The most important thing to recognise this time of year is the change in the season. In addition we have got slightly colder conditions, so the roads are not as good.

"We are appealing for people to be aware of the conditions and make allowances for that and check their vehicles this time of year.

"No one ever goes out and intends to have an accident but on a daily basis my team deal with it. You also see the other side of it and the aftermath which is the serious injuries that can change people's lives."

To find out more about the work of the Road Victims Trust, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk