Ridgetown hit-and-run crumbles local family’s world

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A National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims was held Nov. 16, to remember the many people killed and seriously injured on the world’s roads and to acknowledge the suffering of all affected victims, families and communities. This year, Rachel Mattsson, the daughter of Wendy Clark, who died recently in Ridgetown due to a hit-and-run, spoke about her family’s experience. Pictured above, from left, are Const. Jason Herder, Rachel Mattsson, and Const. Josh Flikweert.

By Bird Bouchard
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Ridgetown Independent News

A local family coping with the loss of their loved one is asking drivers use caution on the road.
Last month, Wendy Clark of Howard Township was hit by a passing vehicle as she was getting out of her vehicle on Main Street in Ridgetown. Clark was seriously injured in an alleged hit-and-run and succumbed to her injuries in hospital two days later.
Rachel Mattsson, Clark’s daughter, said her mother’s common-law partner and her two-year-old nephew were in the car at the time of the collision.
The vehicle that hit Clark fled the scene before authorities arrived. However, witness statements and surveillance video helped police locate the driver.
Mattsson got emotional speaking at an event held by Chatham-Kent police on the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims on Nov. 16. The day is set aside annually to remember those killed or seriously injured on Canada’s roadways.
Mattsson said the passing of her mother has left her entire family reeling.

She said her mother was known as a kind and compassionate person, willing to help anyone in need.
“Her sudden death has crumbled our family’s world. I think we’re just starting to feel this now. It’s very tough, very tough. My mom was a super-talented lady, and we’re missing that now. She would do anything for anyone — the shirt off her back,” said Mattsson.
She said it would have made a big difference if the driver had stayed at the scene after her mother was hit.
“It would have made it feel like an accident, not a crime,” she said.
Mattsson praised police for making a quick arrest following the collision, adding it made a big difference to her and her family.
“Them making an arrest as quickly as they did also changed our journey. I could get to the hospital and sit beside my mother and be positive because I knew that I didn’t have to worry about that. So I’m very, very grateful for that,” she said.
However, according to Const. Jason Herder, during some crash investigations, police officers don’t always have all the answers right away.
“There are times when a collision is not so straightforward that we have maybe a video camera or a great eye witness,” he said. “The hardest part of the job is going to the families and breaking that news of what’s happened when you don’t have the answers just yet.”
A 38-year-old Ridgetown man was arrested and charged with failing to remain at a collision resulting in bodily harm, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and two related Highway Traffic Act offences in connection with the incident.

It’s anticipated that new charges will be laid against the accused following Clark’s death.
“There are still aspects of that investigation that are still ongoing,” Herder said at the Nov. 16 event. “The matter is before the courts.”
In addition to police enforcement, Herder said public education and compliance are keys. He noted that tragic incidents also take a toll on officers and other emergency responders. He said officers often share the pain with the families of victims.
According to Const. Josh Flikweert, driving is a privilege, not a right. He said decisions drivers make could have major impacts.
“Think about that before you step into your vehicles,” he said.
According to C-K police, there have been 12 fatalities on municipal roads in C-K this year, and 20 people have suffered serious life-threatening injuries.
“Our goal is to reduce that number to zero. That’s the goal,” said Herder. “We don’t want to lose any lives on the roadways.”

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