Roses on her empty seat The Province (Preview from Vancouver)

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Date: Feb 23, 2001
Source: The Province
Submitted By: Gina

PORT HARDY -- Aimee Rachelle Labatt paid a broker $200 for a ticket to tonight's Backstreet Boys concert. The 17-year-old danced in her living room the day she and Jessica Daly got the seats.

Jessica will be there. She plans to lay red roses on seat six, row six, section 324 -- the spot where her friend should have been cheering, screaming and dancing.

Aimee died on Dec. 13, the day before her 18th birthday. She was the victim of an allegedly drunk driver. And if you're lucky enough to see tonight's Vancouver concert, her family ask only a simple favour.

Enjoy yourself -- and remember Aimee.

"I never knew someone could be so excited about a concert," says Jessica, who wrote to the band about Aimee. "I just think if the Backstreet Boys could say something about drinking and driving and even one person listened -- it could make a difference."

Two months after Aimee's death, life is tough for those who knew the friendly girl whose infectious laugh made something as simple as a trip to Port Hardy's tiny grocery store a pleasure.

Aimee graduated the summer before she died and was living at home, working at Glen-Way Foods to earn money to begin studying early childhood education.

She had saved $5,200 by Dec. 8, the night she was struck by a van as she walked home from work into the cul-de-sac where the Labatt home sits. The road was slippery, and the vehicle was speeding uphill, away from the harbour. The driver fled the scene.

John Labatt returned home minutes later.

"I saw someone on the grass. I could see the person had on a purple vest. I yelled, 'It's Aimee -- call an ambulance.' I checked for a pulse. I checked for anything I could find. I finally put my hand on her stomach and felt something. All I could do is wait."

Aimee was flown to Vancouver General Hospital, where she lay in a coma for five days.

"We were hoping there would be a Christmas miracle," says John, wiping away a tear. "You're thinking, if there could be one, hopefully, it would be us that could have it. But it just wasn't meant to be."

On Dec. 13, Aimee was taken off life support. The next day -- her 18th birthday -- hundreds gathered in Port Hardy for a candle-light vigil by the ocean. Friends brought angels, big and small, to guide Aimee. One now sits in the living room beside her picture.

Two weeks ago, RCMP charged Lorna Sylvia Margaret Homer, 37, with impaired driving, impaired driving causing death and failure to remain at the scene of an accident. She is to appear in court March 6.

Every day is a painful reminder. Muddy tire tracks still mark the lawn on the corner, two doors down. John asked 12-year-old son Kevin to give up his paper delivery route, unable to bear the thought of another child walking past that spot, in the dark.

Aimee's step-sister is also named Amy -- Amy Liz Corbett. Aimee Rachelle and Amy Liz introduced their single parents to each other.

Amid the emotional struggle, the family is trying to cope with ICBC. John has dealt with four different adjusters -- one of whom phoned to talk about money on the day he gave his daughter's eulogy.

Worse still, Aimee's parents have to calculate her future worth in order to place a claim.

"A lot of things are taken away," says John. "Our dreams. Amy's dreams. They're all gone. How do you put that down?"

The Labatts have started a memorial fund through CIBC in Aimee's name.

Like Jessica, Aimee's stepmom, Pat Corbett-Labatt, has also written the Backstreet Boys.

"She was so excited," says Pat. "She couldn't wait."

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