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FARMINGTON — Evelyn Cook knows exactly how the woman who hit and killed a Farmington teenager last week must be feeling.
That’s because she was behind the wheel during a similar fatal accident almost three years ago just a few miles away. Cook said Tuesday she wants the driver to know she’s not alone.
“My heart hurts for her, because unless you've gone through it and unless you're sitting in her shoes and feeling how she feels right now, there's no way to be able to fathom the pain that she's in," Cook said.
... unless you've gone through it and unless you're sitting in her shoes and feeling how she feels right now, there's no way to be able to fathom the pain that she's in.
–Evelyn Cook, driver in fatal accident
Andrew Tolman, 16, was walking his bike through a Farmington crosswalk on State Street and 400 West when he was hit by a westbound vehicle around 6 p.m. on March 27. He suffered severe head trauma in the accident and died while was being transported by medical helicopter to University Hospital.
Cook was the driver in a similar crash that happened in 2009. Jacob Park was hit while riding his bike in a Centerville crosswalk at 400 West and Chase Lane. The 12-year-old was flown to Primary Children’s Medical Center and died a few days later. The boy was her neighbor and her friend's son.
The death of Andrew, who was buried Monday, left a strong impression on Cook.
"It's that guilt that you feel, not just for yourself, but for this family that is hurting,” she said. “Nobody sees what the driver goes through."
Like the driver in Tolman's fatal accident, Cook was driving within the speed limit. She was sober, and she was not cited by police.
"There's no other way to explain it, other than I looked. My daughter was in the front seat, she looked and he wasn't there," she recalled of that day.
Still, she said knowing it was all an accident brings little comfort to the one behind the wheel. "I felt a lot of animosity towards myself, a lot of guilt, a lot of anger,” she said. “I was mad."
Dealing with what had happened was hard, not only because of the self-blame and guilt, but because of comments people made.
“The things that people said about me were very hurtful,” she said, “but I understood where they were coming from because they were hurting, too."
She said the driver is probably asking herself a lot of questions, including why she did what she did and why she didn't go in a different direction. Cook said there are no answers to those questions.
Cook is reaching out the 29-year-old driver in the Farmington accident because she said the woman doesn’t have anywhere to go. “There’s no support group, and it’s hard,” Cook said, holding back tears. "This was a truly genuine accident, whether anyone understands that or not. I get it."
It took me a really long time to realize, 'You know what? I'm not a horrible person.'
–Evelyn Cook, driver in fatal accident
By reaching out to that driver, Cook said she doesn't want to add to the pain being felt by Tolman's family. "It's tragic for the family, and my heart hurts for that family, and it's sad because they're missing their child,” she said.
She just hopes that somehow both sides can find a way to heal, just as she has over the past few years. Even though it was an accident, she had a hard time forgiving herself. “It took me a really long time to realize, 'You know what? I'm not a horrible person.'"
Cook also has a message for people who would judge the driver. “Don’t be quick to place blame,” she said, “because you don’t understand the circumstances or the situation, but maybe be quicker to offer a hand and see if there’s something you can do to help.”
Tuesday evening, Tolman's sister Kristie Roberts sent a statement to KSL News. I reads, in part, "While we are saddend by his loss, we don't blame or judge. This is for Andrew to do. And he would not be judging anyone, or blaming anyone." [CLICK HERE to read the entire statement]
Farmington police turned over their investigation of last week's crash to the Davis County Attorney's Office. No charges have been filed. Police have been describing it as nothing more than a horrible accident.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc