I was driving my daughters home from roller-skating when a drunk driver smashed into us and changed our lives forever…
By Sarah Neville, 41, from Hinckley, Leicestershire
My daughter Samantha was a little ray of sunshine. She was kind and outgoing, and she loved to roller skate with her big sister Rebecca.
The two of them would go off every Saturday night to skate for a few hours in the local leisure centre and I would pick them up afterwards.
May 8th 2010 started out just like any other Saturday.
My girls Samantha, 12, and 16-year-old Rebecca clambered into my car still buzzing from their skating session. Rebecca got into the front passenger seat while Samantha sat in the middle in the back so we all could chat.
The girls were laughing and joking as I set off towards home, and we decided to go to McDonalds on the way as a treat. It was total bliss.
Suddenly, a car came haring around the corner towards us. ‘Idiot,’ I heard Samantha mutter behind me. I didn’t have time to think.
I watched in horror as the speeding car clipped a kerb, span out of control and ploughed straight into us.
I can still hear the excruciating sound of the crunching metal. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, all I could think about was my girls. Were they safe?
My car was completely crushed. I was trapped in the driver’s seat and I could hear Rebecca whimpering next to me.
I tried to turn my head to see if Samantha was ok but pain shot through my neck. I tried to call her name but the words wouldn’t come out.
The people in the car behind me and an off-duty police officer and nurse in the cars behind them rushed to help us, and before long I could hear the sirens of the emergency services coming.
Time stood still as I kept trying to see if my girls were ok – but I couldn’t do anything to check. I prayed for their safety.
Firefighters ran over to our car and carefully took Samantha out of the back seat. She wasn’t moving, and I watched in horror as paramedics tried to revive her.
I wanted to try to save my beautiful girl but I was stuck, helpless. I reached for Rebecca’s hand and we trembled together as Samantha was put in the back of an ambulance and driven away.
Tears rolled silently down my cheeks as the firefighters carefully took off my car’s windscreen and cut us out of the car.
Rebecca and I were rushed to hospital in ambulances and hours later, I was wheeled into intensive care with a broken arm and shattered thigh bone.
My parents had headed straight to the hospital when they’d heard the news about the crash.
‘How are my girls?’ I begged, as a nurse pumped sedatives into my arm. ‘Rebecca’s fine, just cuts and bruises,’ Mum said. But then her face clouded with pain. ‘But Samantha… she’s dead. I’m so sorry.’
Then everything turned black.
When I woke hours later in intensive care, Rebecca was at my bedside with my parents. I was shaking and screaming, demanding to see Samantha.
A nurse came in and confirmed what my parents had already told me: Samantha was dead.
I was inconsolable. I writhed around in the hospital bed as nurses tried to calm me down. And when the doctors gave me my own prognosis, I felt numb.
They said I may never walk again, but I couldn’t think about myself. I was racked with grief – and guilt about the horror smash.
Why had I lived and my precious girl died? She had her whole life ahead of her.
Surgeons inserted metal pins into my broken arm and leg and I was forced to stay in hospital for four weeks.
I contracted an infection in my leg and was told it could be amputated, but still I didn’t care – all I could think about was Samantha.
Rebecca and my younger children, James, 12; Kane, seven, and five-year-old Roxanne often came to visit, but I couldn’t talk about what happened. It hurt too much.
Being stuck in hospital, I couldn’t make arrangements for Samantha’s funeral.
Samantha’s dad, Gary, and my mum asked me what I wanted for the day to say goodbye to my girl and organised it all for me.
I was finally released just days before the funeral – but bound to a wheelchair.
White horses wearing pink ribbons pulled Samantha’s carriage to the packed crematorium. Inside, it was all pink, her favourite colour, and all her friends were there.
The day was heartbreaking, but a beautifully fitting way to say goodbye to popular Samantha, my angel.
It was then I vowed that one day I’d walk again in tribute to my little girl.
Soon after, a police officer called me and said the driver of the car that crashed into mine was four times over the drink-drive limit. He was with his dad and they both died at the scene.
Hearing that the crash wasn’t my fault was a relief, but it did little to ease the pain of Samantha’s loss.
Rebecca struggled to cope with the death of her sister too and went to live with her dad. I was heartbroken but had to keep going for my other children.
I struggled through four years of intensive physiotherapy to learn to walk again, and as my legs slowly healed my heart started to mend as well.
At last, a year ago, my dream of walking again came true. I ditched the wheelchair and now I stand tall.
I walked to Samantha’s graveside on June 17 this year, the day that would have been her 18th birthday, with her brothers and sisters.
We decorated her grave and cut a cake in her memory, celebrating the birthdays she has missed.
I often wonder what Samantha would be doing now if she were alive. I am sure she would be a strong, confident young woman. She always talked about wanting to be a beautician and was so good with children.
I cry for her every day. Surviving the smash that killed my daughter is agony, but Samantha will never be forgotten.
We have moved house since the crash, but still keep a shrine in our home for our little angel.
Kane and Roxanne were so young when it happened but ask me lots of questions about their big sister who lives in heaven.
We talk about her every day, and think of the life she could have lived.