‘My world just ended’: Family grieving after mother dies in weekend collision, baby in critical condition

Family and friends of a Winnipeg woman who was killed in a crash Saturday afternoon are grieving the loss of the young mother and praying for her nine-month-old son who is still in hospital.

“My daughter was an amazing, amazing young woman,” said Candy Volk.

Volk’s daughter, Jennifer Dethmers, 30, was killed when the van she was in was hit by a pickup truck in the city’s William Whyte neighbourhood around 1:30 p.m.

“[She was] a sister, an aunty, a friend, a niece, a cousin, and she just over 9 months ago became a mother for the first time, her world revolved around her little baby,” said Volk outside the Health Sciences Centre on Sunday.

“He’s in critical condition right now.”

Candy Volk, left, says she wants people to remember her daughter for who she was, not how she died. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Police said the truck was involved in a routine traffic stop nearby when it took off at a high rate of speed, and within minutes collided with the van at the corner of Boyd Avenue and Andrews Street.

The truck could be seen flipped on its side, while the van’s windshield had caved in and the front bumper was ripped off.

“Four people from the struck vehicle — including an infant and a child — and two from the fleeing vehicle were transported to hospital, most in critical or serious condition,” said Const. Rob Carver Saturday evening.

First responders were called to the collision on Boyd Avenue in the William Whyte neighbourhood at about 2 p.m. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Dethmers and her baby, Anthony, were in the back seat of the van family say, and her partner and stepdaughter have injuries but are expected to be released from hospital soon. 

Manitoba’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigation Unit, has taken over the investigation, police say.

Renato Navarro lives on Boyd Avenue a few houses down from the crash scene. He said he was in his front yard when the truck raced past him.

“I think he was running around 90 kilometres to 100, and then on the corner of Andrews [Street] he did not stop at the stop sign, he just went through and then he hit the van and his pickup truck flipped,” he said.

“It’s very sad, we are praying that they’ll be OK,” he said.

‘My world just ended’

Volk said she spoke with her daughter Saturday morning and the pair planned to go shopping that afternoon, but she never showed up.

“I was trying to phone her all afternoon,” said Volk. “She wasn’t answering her phone.”

A group gathered to drum and smudge Sunday afternoon on Boyd Avenue near Andrews Street where the collision happened. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Volk lives just blocks from the crash site and saw photos of the scene on social media and instantly knew it was her daughter’s van.

“I went to the site and I found out she was gone and my world just ended,” she said through tears.

“She was just going about her day,” said Volk.

“I won’t be able to spend time with my baby anymore now, I gotta bury my baby girl.”

Vigil to be held

Dethmers’ adopted sister and cousins were smudging outside of the hospital Sunday afternoon to show support for the family. A group also gathered at the site of the crash to smudge and drum.

The family says they are trying to stay strong for the infant, who they call “AJ,” and say they are grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.

“She has so many friends and so many family that are grieving,” said Volk.

Candy Volk, centre, was joined by her adopted daughter Lisa Hargreaves, right, and her nephew Kelly Brown, left, to smudge and pray for her grandson outside the Health Sciences Centre Sunday afternoon. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Volk says she doesn’t know much about what happened, but she wants her daughter to be remembered for who she was and not for how she died.

Dethmers was involved in several walks to honour youth who died from murder, suicide and addictions.

“That’s who she was and I want people to remember her for that, not how she died, remember how she lived and the love and kindness she showed everybody,” said Volk.

Volk said she doesn’t want to see the community lash out in anger about what happened, but instead show each other kindness because that’s what her daughter would have wanted.

“Don’t be filled with hate and retaliation, that’s not who she was, she was a very gentle loving kind person,” she said.

“Hug your loved ones, tell them you love them, make the time to go spend with them, because you just never know.”

The family plans to hold a vigil for Dethmers on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the site of the crash. Volk said members of the community are welcome to attend and that physical distancing will be in effect.

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