“Meridian!” was the last thing Karla Mindel heard Lenard Haines say before the car they were traveling in crashed into a cement wall.
Mindel was sleeping in the front seat as the vehicle was speeding down Highway 33 just after 3 a.m. on June 20.
The vehicle crossed into oncoming lanes and struck a cement wall ejecting three of the occupants from the vehicle including Haines and Mindel. The driver and three passengers were taken to Kelowna General Hospital immediately with serious injuries.
Debris from the early morning crash scattered across a one-block radius between Nickel and Kneller roads in Rutland.
In the vehicle was Mindel, Haines, his brother Shane Haines and two dogs—a puppy that was treated for a broken leg and Jewels, a bull mastiff that went missing. Mindel declined to identify the male driver.
Media reports this week revealed that Lenard Haines died from injuries sustained in the crash, although neither Kelowna RCMP or the Coroner’s office have confirmed that or anything else about the accident investigation since it happened. The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is still investigating the incident.
“I kind of woke up a bit to the guys talking and saying something about police chasing us, I thought “Yeah, right” but then I saw the lights and heard Lenard yell meridian, that was it. Everything went black again, ” Mindel recalled in an interview with the Capital News.
Mindel was sent to the hospital with serious injuries including a broken sternum and road rash “all over my body.”
While in the hospital, Mindel was distraught because her dog, Jewels, had been ejected from the car and had not yet been found.
She was so distressed that the nurses allowed her to leave with a friend for a few hours to look for Jewels after she had stabilized from her injuries.
“I was so worried about her when I woke up in the hospital, no one knew there was another dog in the car. I didn’t know where she was. I just sat there and cried for the first two days.”
Determined to find her, Mindel set out barefoot, in her hospital gown attached to her IV, calling for Jewels, “screaming her name,” as she recalled.
“I went to the crash site—it was heart breaking, I was really overwhelmed. I sat on that wall where we hit talking to Lenard, telling him how much I miss him and I said goodbye.”
Jewels was found by Stacey Hubbard who chased the dog down after seeing her get clipped by a car.
Hubbard took Jewels to Pawsitive Veterinary Care where she was treated for road rash on her face and the cuts on her paws from running on the hot cement.
“She was running so fast and could hardly run properly, her back legs looked as if they were about to give out any minute,” said Hubbard, who chased her despite having a broken ankle herself. “Those two have a guardian angel for sure. They are lucky to be alive.”
“I have never been in this kind of situation before, I have had friends pass away, but nothing like this,” Mindel added. “All three of us were ejected from the car.”
The three were visiting Kelowna from Williams Lake to celebrate Father’s Day with Shane Haines’ daughter.
“It has been one of the worst weeks of my life,” Mindel said. “I have known him for 19 years, people are blaming me, saying it was my fault because it was my car.
“A lot of rumours have been going around that I was the driver, but I wasn’t, I was asleep. When someone is hurting they want to blame somebody, it has put me into quite a depression.”
Mindel, who attended Haines’ funeral and the wake the night before, says his mother and brother were happy to see her but she had to leave because of the whispers.
“They were saying I killed him, I had to go sit in the car and cry.”
Before attending the funeral, Mindel was in front of the mirror styling her hair while her family was waiting when she says she felt Lenard’s presence.
“I felt his breath on my back, and I heard Lenard’s voice, he said my name. It sent chills down my spine.”
Mindel’s brother started a gofundme page to help pay for her medical bills and support their parents who had to stay in Kelowna to be by her side.
So far $200 has been raised toward the goal of $10,000. Mindel has borrowed money from friends to help keep the power on at the family home in Williams lake, since her father is now 75 and can no longer work leaving her mother to support the family as a careworker.
“The cable and hydro was cut off the other week, usually I help her out but it’s just her right now. I feel so bad that I can’t help her.”
According to the gofundme page, Mindel has decided that any funds raised “deemed extra” and not necessary for her and Jewels’ recovery will be turned over to the Haines’ family to help with funeral costs.
Mindel is still recovering at home with Jewels and will see her daughter, Jenny, for the first time since the incident to celebrate her birthday in the park together.
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