Vandalized memorial cross replaced

New one on Lougheed Highway a reminder of ‘preventable’ deaths

  • Nov. 27, 2013 9:00 a.m.

On a cold, winter morning, the Dyer and De Oliviera families huddle together at a spot where they’ve stood many times.

Cars and trucks whizz past the hydro pole on Lougheed Highway near Harris Road while they nail a bright white cross to it.

“Hopefully this cross will be a reminder to say that two people lost their lives here,” said Debbie Dyer, wrapped in a purple scarf, her daughter’s favourite colour.

“And it was all preventable.”

Rebecca Dyer, 19, and her boyfriend, Johnny De Oliveira Jr., 21, were killed around midnight Oct. 19. 2010, when a Toyota driven by Andelina Hecimovic skidded sideways over a concrete median, flipped over and landed on top of their Suzuki Swift.

The couple, returning home from a Justin Beiber concert, died instantly.

Hecimovic, now 26, was charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death, but was acquitted in September, following a week-long trial.

Although Hecimovic was speeding and ran a red light while driving in a right-turn-only lane, the judge found her actions were “simple carelessness,” not criminal.

The verdict is being appealed.

A few days after the acquittal, a wooden cross that marked the spot where the young couple died was snapped in half.

Korina De Oliviera, Johnny’s step-mother, found the pieces tossed behind a concrete barrier.

It’s now been replaced by a steel cross that “weighs a ton.” It was fabricated by Apollo Sheet Metal, a company owned by Tony Paris. McMath Photography donated two new photographs of Beckie and Johnny that hang on it.

“This one can’t be broken,” Korina De Oliviera said as Beckie’s aunt Jacqueline and uncle John Goolevitch tacked more photos of the couple to the hydro pole.

Both families have been overwhelmed by the support they continue to receive from strangers.

“It really restores your faith in humanity,” De Oliviera added.

Deon van der Heever,  who works at Marv Jones Honda, was staying at the Ramada Inn when the wooden cross was vandalized and offered to pay to replace it. Since the cross has been replaced, he donated the money to the group Families for Justice, which is lobbying to add vehicular homicide to the criminal code.

“The community has been so supportive that it’s unbelievable,” said Dyer.

“It’s so heart-warming and it makes you believe that there are good people out there.”