Too young to die

By admin
16 July 2010

She looks like a fragile, scared little girl as she places a bunch of blue and white flowers at the foot of a tree. They were the favourite colours of Robert Spence (19), the guy she’d hoped to marry, Sandi Larkin says.

“I put fresh flowers here every day. I’ll do that forever. I talk to Robbie every day but I’ll never be able to hold his hand again.”

Robert was killed instantly near the tree on the notorious road through Target Kloof in Port Elizabeth when he was thrown from a car. The driver was 17 and allegedly drunk when he lost control at high speed. The car crashed over the centre barrier, rolled and slammed into the tree.

The driver walked away from the wreck with a broken arm and jaw but Robert was dead.

“Robbie once got out of a car on a highway because the driver was too drunk,” Sandi says. “I don’t know what was going through his mind that night. If only I had stopped him when he wanted to carry on partying.”

Matric finals are almost upon her but while her classmates at Victoria Park High School in Walmer, Port Elizabeth, prepare for the exams Sandi has no idea how she’s going to pass.

She’s only 17 and her dreams have been shattered by the tragic accident which could have been avoided.

They were at a house party for learners, the adults weren’t home and alcohol was flowing. Then Robert and the 17-year-old carried on partying at a club and drove home with the unlicensed youth behind the wheel of the car his mother had given him.

Perhaps something good can come from this tragedy if it could serve as a warning to parents and other young people. Even after Robert’s death many youngsters still get drunk in local clubs and then drive, Sandi says.

“Any parent who gives their 17-year-old child a car to drive without a licence might as well give them an AK-47 and send them to Sandton City,” says Robert’s mother, Lianda Sutherland of East London.

“The thing that saddens me most is there were so many opportunities to prevent the tragedy. If I’d known then what I know now I would have sat outside that club knitting and waiting for them to finish partying and driven them home safely.

“The accident has affected so many young lives, most of them in matric. I wish kids would have the courage to be the ‘baddie’ friend and take away the car keys. Don’t stand at the funeral with regrets, knowing you could have made a difference. Phone your parents; so what if mom is mad at 2 am. Trust me, your mom will get over it.

“We want to see you grow up – not bury you.”

*Police are investigating a case of culpable homicide.

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