Learn from tragedy, teen's dad pleads



THE GRIEVING family of a 16-year-old killed after he took his father's car for a ride wants other teens to learn from the tragedy. With his parents away, Christopher Campbell, 16, was enjoying a night at home with friends Saturday when he took his father's Mercedes Benz for a drive on his own, despite only having a learner's permit.

He veered off one of his neighbourhood streets near Royal York Rd. and Eglinton Ave. and died in a fiery explosion.

"If there is one good thing that can come from this tragedy, it is that others will learn from Chris' mistakes," his dad, Bill Campbell, said.

The family said Chris was determined to drive even though his father had hidden the keys to the car before going on a trip out of the country. His family said the teen's lack of experience was a contributing factor in the accident.

A Web site -- chriscampbell.ca -- is dedicated to Chris' memory and is filled with messages of love and mourning. It also has a link to an Internet information site about "understanding teen driver crashes and what parents can do."

"I really hope that parents will show their teenagers the Web site so that they don't make a similar mistake," said Colin Campbell, Chris' uncle.

Friends and family describe Chris as a "wonderful" child and "the good kid in the group" who had a love for life and an ability to turn bad moods into smiles.

"He was always making people laugh and always had a smile on his face," his dad said.

In one poignant note on the Web site, Chris' younger brother, Michael, shares some of his last memories.

"We had so many dreams and now they can't come true. One day I'll see him again and that will be the happiest day of my life."

The accident site has been covered with flowers in an outpouring of support.

A funeral mass will be held tomorrow at Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Bloor St. W., just west of Royal York Rd. at 10:30 a.m. The family would appreciate donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Young life cut tragically short

Family's new car proved enticing for 16-year-old
Father hopes death will provide lesson for others


On Saturday night, William Campbell's 16-year-old twin son Christopher took the family's new Mercedes-Benz for a joyride and never came home.

Now the bereaved father is desperately trying to draw some good from the tragedy that has touched a reserved, upscale neighbourhood near Royal York Rd. and Dundas St. W.

Campbell is warning parents and teens that car keys can be loaded weapons in the hands of an inexperienced driver.

"I'm hoping this incident, as tragic as it is, can save lives," he said. "If you don't know what to do with a car, it's like taking a gun and playing Russian roulette."

Campbell thinks Chris, who had a learner's permit and wasn't allowed to drive alone, made an error common among novice drivers: As he slowed to turn on to Edgevalley Dr., near the family's Etobicoke home, he may have put his foot on the accelerator instead of the brake. His life ended in a fiery explosion after the car struck a tree near James Gardens.

His devoted parents, fraternal twin Will and younger brother Michael, 12, are devastated.

"When it comes to senseless death, this is at the top of the list," Campbell said yesterday, as he choked back tears at Bishop Allen Academy, on Royal York near The Queensway, where his handsome son was popular among teachers and students.

While there's no evidence Chris had been drinking, his father acknowledged the possibility.

"I'm realistic. ... It's likely he and his friends were experimenting. It's making sure people understand if they take one sip not to touch the car."

On the long Thanksgiving weekend, Campbell was still in Europe on a three-week business trip; his wife Marie had gone to visit a cousin for a couple of hours on Saturday.

The twins had spent the early part of Saturday evening eating Chinese food, watching a movie and playing pool with a small group of friends at home. It wasn't until the other teens went out that Chris did something his teachers and family say was entirely out of character: He took the keys to the new car.

The same mossy stones that slashed the underside of the Mercedes now support a vast makeshift memorial amidst the leafy enclave of mansions. "Rest in Peace" has been scratched crudely on some of the flat stones.

"Next game is for you Chris" is written on a football. Bouquets of fall flowers are piled around the wide tree trunks. On one tree where the bark is badly scored, a circle of flowers is suspended under a strip of yellow police tape. The earthy autumn air carries the scent from dozens of burning puddles of wax.

"It's shocking, there's so much outpouring," said Campbell, who struggles with the guilt of having bought the kind of fast car that would naturally tantalize a teenager.

"He wanted to be like me so much. He would listen to my business conversations. He was always trying to start a web design business. He was an entrepreneur at heart, like me," he said.

"I think he wanted to be like me so much he took my car."

A Letter to The Toronto Sun Editor

Dear Editor of the Toronto SUN.
Subject : Deadly Weekend Article, Published October 11th, 2004

Last Saturday night, my best friend Bill Campbell, lost his son to a devastating car accident. I would like to share, on Bill’s and Marie’s behalf, a message they have for all teenagers

Chris was a normal, well adjusted 16 year old, loved for his compassion and kindness towards others. He was popular with his teachers and students alike, with good grades, good looks and a very positive attitude towards everyone. His family life was harmonious, with a loving devoted father, a loving attentive mother, and happy relations with his twin brother Willy and younger brother Michael. He was very ambitious and very bright, planning to follow in his dads footsteps as a great entrepreneur. Chris was voted by his class as the guy most likely to earn a million dollars.

Apart from his ambitions, Chris was always there to help out friends and family, often going out of his way to assist in any way that he could. Quieter than his twin brother, his sense of humor and gentle wit won him many friends. Chris also had a passion for cars, and yearned to get his drivers license. His father counseled patience, telling Chris that once he completed his full drivers training, eventually he would get his wish.

Unfortunately, Chris could not wait. He borrowed his Dads car and through simple inexperience and bad luck, he paid the ultimate price. Bill told Chris many times that he was not allowed to drive without proper supervision. Bill even hid his car keys from Chris. But Chris was determined to drive.

As a former 16 year old, I also ‘borrowed’ my parent’s car. So did most of my friends. We thought it was fun, cool and clever. We made stupid driving mistakes but somehow we survived. We were lucky; Chris was not. Chris is now dead and Bill, Marie, Willy and Michael, other family and friends are suffering terribly.

So, please, for the sake of your family and friends, please don’t repeat Christopher’s mistake. When your parents refuse to allow you to drive or take the car, it is because they love you. It was their kindness and caring that kept you alive while you were growing up. For a parent, there is no worse experience that burying your child. Remember, it is the people who you leave behind that often suffer the greatest. Chris was a very good guy. He just got unlucky and so could you.

If you want to learn more about Chris, please see his website at www.chriscampbell.ca. Chris is gone, but he will never be forgotten.

John Nemanic MBA, Chairman, Hostopia Inc.
500 East Broward Boulevard, Suite 1700
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA 33394
Email: chairman@hostopia.com
Toll Free: 1 800 322.9438 ext. 7209

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