Kirsty Wynn

Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

New hope on Father's Day

Girls who lost mother in traumatic car crash plan a loving surprise for their dad

Richard Todd, with daughters Brooke and Caitlin, put on a brave face while remembering Rebecca Todd, who was killed in a car crash last year. Photo / Doug Sherring
Richard Todd, with daughters Brooke and Caitlin, put on a brave face while remembering Rebecca Todd, who was killed in a car crash last year. Photo / Doug Sherring

Caitlin bounces happily around the room like any other 6-year-old. Deep scars around her leg are the only hint of what she has endured.

Today, her delighted dad was presented with Father's Day vouchers Caitlin had made at school, that promised him breakfast in bed.

She'll need the help of her older sister, though. "I'm the only one who can make a cup of tea, so I'll do that," says sister Brooke, 7, proudly.

The pair were injured badly in a car crash that killed their mother. This Father's Day will include tighter hugs than ever.

Brooke and Caitlin had planned breakfast in bed and a surprise for dad Richard Todd, which we did not spoil for him when we visited.

It's a milestone for the two girls who were lucky to survive the crash four days before Christmas last year, caused by a drink-driver.

The past eight months have required lengthy stays in hospital for Caitlin and painful rehabilitation and a rollercoaster of emotions for the Todd family as they grapple with the death of Rebecca.

"I am feeling very lucky to be spending Father's Day with my girls at all, but I can't shake the feeling of what could have been," says Richard, a freelance cameraman.

"They had a sleepover at a friend's house the other night and I was alone for the first night since the crash.

"I was in tears because it hit home what it would have been like if they weren't here."

Brooke and Caitlin were seriously injured in the crash caused by Muriwai man Blair Alick McMillan, who was two times over the legal blood-alcohol limit.

Caitlin suffered injuries to her head and leg after being thrown through the vehicle's windscreen, landing 20m away under a bush. Brooke remained in the car and stayed conscious long enough to ask rescuers where her sister was.

"Brooke was conscious so she saw exactly what happened to her mother. That is something a child should not have to deal with.

"They have both been emotionally scarred by what happened."

The girls' physical recoveries have been slow. They have had long stays at Starship Children's Hospital and rehabilitation at the Wilson Centre on Auckland's North Shore, but Richard is proud of their strength and resilience.

Both are back at Huapai District School - Brooke attends fulltime and Caitlin does half-days.

At the home in Massey, West Auckland, Richard says talking about their mother helps the girls cope. They have a table in the lounge for flowers and a wooden casket containing Rebecca's ashes. "They sit down and have a chat, and leave notes there for their mum."

Richard, however, is still angry. McMillan will be sentenced in November for causing his wife's death while driving drunk, and two charges of injuring. "I just hope justice is done for my girls and he pays for what he has has taken away from them."

- Herald on Sunday

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