Friends of Calgary couple killed by distracted driver stage benefit show for brain injury recovery

WATCH: Fighting distracted driving is now the focus of a new effort in Calgary. It's being led by some people who know all too well the terrible price to be paid when a driver's got his eyes on a screen instead of the road. Gil Tucker has the story.

The memories of his long recovery always come back when Ross Gilker visits the Association for the Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured (ARBI) centre in Calgary.

“I had a stroke myself 12 years ago,” Gilker said. “So I come in and I see these people going through rehab and it takes me back to what that’s like.”

Gilker went on to serve on ARBI’s board, helping the organization with fundraising rides through his cycling club, Cycle Therapy.

Among the regular riders were Ron and Patti Lou Doornbos, who died after a pedestrian collision near Phoenix in March 2018.

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The couple was walking along a sidewalk when they were hit from behind by an SUV.

Patti Lou and an American couple died at the scene, while Ron spent three months in a coma before passing away in June 2018.

“That’s a huge hole in a lot of people’s lives,” Ron Doornbos’s daughter, Danielle, said.

Police say the man behind the wheel of the SUV was speeding and on his phone in the moments leading up to the crash.

Distracted driving deaths outpacing impaired driving deaths

Now, a year after Ron Doornbos’s death, his friends are organizing a benefit show to raise money for ARBI.

“Ron worked with most of the band,” said Ron Read, whose band F.O.G. will take the stage at the fundraiser.

The event honours the couple’s memory by carrying on their enthusiastic efforts to help a wide range of Calgary charities.

“Big personalities, wonderful people,” Read said.

Along with supporting ARBI, the event will also focus on spreading the word on the dangers of distracted driving.

Calgary drivers not getting the message on texting and driving

“Don’t touch your phone in the car,” Danielle said. “I see it all the time and it makes me so angry.

“People were ripped away from their families because of speed and distracted driving.”

“You look at the hardship that’s been put on family and friends,” Gilker said. “So unnecessary, so preventable.”

The 27-year-old driver of the SUV, Alex John Bashaw, has pleaded guilty to four counts of negligent homicide.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 19.

The fundraising show for ARBI happens from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 22 at the Bonasera Pizza and Sports Bar in southeast Calgary.

“To know that the funds can help,” Doornbos said, “is awesome.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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