A heartbroken mother wants something done about the deadly intersection that took her daughter’s life.
Using the opportunity for the public to speak to Leduc County Councillors on any topic at their Nov. 25 meeting, Shelley Schmidtke tearfully shared her family’s story, explaining how she was coming home from work Sept. 24, 2013 when she came across an accident at the Hwy. 21/ Hwy. 625 intersection and saw a car that looked like her daughter Stephanie’s car crushed under a semi-truck.
Parking her car on the side of the highway, she made her way to a police officer who verified the car involved was Stephanie’s and that she had been killed.
“We believe that as she was coming home from her work in home care in Leduc County that day, that something obstructed her view of northbound traffic as she waited at the stop sign at Hwy. 625 to cross Hwy. 21 resulting in her car being struck by a semi that was unable to stop in time.”
Several years earlier, Schmidtke’s husband Evan was nearly killed twice in a matter of moments at the same intersection when his vehicle was struck from behind and pushed into oncoming traffic and then again when a northbound semi nearly collided with him.
A year later, Schmidtke suffers from nausea, clinical depression, complex bereavement disorder and requires professional treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the accident.
The family has contacted Leduc-Beaumont MLA George Rogers and has met with the Ministry of Transportation to discuss what needs to be done to have a set of traffic lights installed at that intersection, which sees multiple injury accidents and fatalities each year.
During their meeting with Ministry staff, Alberta Transportation Engineer Abid Butt said the intersection is listed second on the department’s improvement list but has not been included in the three-year capital plan.
Staff also told them safety and operational studies have been completed at that intersection.
Following the meeting, the Schmidtke’s have sought support from others impacted by that intersection. To date, they have collected over 400 letters of support, all of which are being forward to the Ministry in an effort to force action. Rogers has said he will see if funding can be found within the department, possibly from larger projects that came in under-budget and will be lobbying the Minister of Transportation to get this project included in the three-year capital plan.
In a letter of support, New Sarepta Fire Chief Roger Anger said that intersection is one of the worst in their area. “Over my 25 years of fire service in the surrounding community I have witnessed many life-changing accidents that have resulted in injury, property damage and even death at this intersection. The number of incidents we respond to at this location clearly makes it the most dangerous in our response area.”
“Not only is it dangerous to motorists and area residents, but responding to incidents has put first responders at risk,” said Anger. The traffic volume at this location can be extreme during an incident, which makes it difficult to ensure the protection of bystanders and emergency responders. The limited resources of our small department are stretched when managing these emergency scenes.”
Although the intersection is the responsibility of the Province, the Schmidtke’s came to council looking for support and help.
“We feel for you. There’s no two ways about that,” said Leduc County Mayor John Whaley. “We all have kids and can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
Whaley said he had just sent a letter last week to the Ministry asking for them to do something at that intersection and the County has regularly pushed at the government to take action. “We have to keep pounding at them until they do something to protect our safety,” he said. “Put more pressure on them and they will do the right thing eventually. Any chance we get, we will continue to bring it forward.”