Linda Ruby sat for five hours on a city street in Mexico holding the hand of her husband who had been hit and killed by a texting driver.
In the morning sun on the quiet boulevard near the Mazatlán Marina, she could do little but rub Eric’s back, as the emergency vehicles came to a screeching halt around her.
“I knew that when he went flying over the car that he was dead before he landed on the ground,” said Linda recalling that day on March 11. “I was kind of in shock, it was like the CSI scene where they come in with their white suits and they mark everything, they even marked where one of his shoes was.”
Still, she could only watch and wait until the coroner’s service came to take Eric’s body away.
Teenage sweethearts, the Penticton couple had been married for 44 years and were vacationing in Mazatlán, a place and whose people they loved.
At the time of the accident, the Rubys were cycling with a small group of other people as they often did while on holiday there.
“There was nobody on the road just us, it’s a boulevard, two lanes and a parking lane and we were in the parking lane,” said Linda. “The car was five or six inches from hitting me as well because Eric was just on my outside.
“It was two young males on their way to college both of them reading a text message on their phones and didn’t see us till they slammed into the back of Eric. They didn’t break, they didn’t swerve they didn’t try to avoid us. They had no idea, I watched the car afterwards and they had no idea.”
The force of the impact was so strong it tossed Eric onto the windshield and over the white Nissan Sentra and back onto the street behind.
“He (driver) was also late for school so on top of the fact he wasn’t watching, he was also driving very quickly,” said Linda.
The driver continued, but did eventually stop. According to Linda the man came back, taking responsibility for his actions.
Dr. Eric Ruby was much loved in the Penticton community and for years had owned the Penticton Dental Centre which he bought shortly after the couple moved to Penticton in 1976 from Montreal. (Read more here: Rotary founder killed in Mexico)
As part of a personal commitment she made to her husband, Linda is planning to do all she can to educate the public — to drive home the message of the devastating consequences of driver inattention.
She will be doing so this Saturday at the Penticton Rotary Wheels Car Show (which Eric helped start) where she will be with her late husband’s sports car.
“It’s a 2015 Miata MX 5 and we just bought it last year. This was going to be his retirement car and sadly he died five weeks short of 65 so he never made it to retirement,” said Linda.
Along with the car will be a poster with photos including the accident scene with Linda on the road, another of the vehicle and one of the damaged bicycle.
There is also family picture with Eric’s image crossed out with a large, black X .
“It’s something I have done for Eric, and the poster will stand in front of his car showing what happens when people text and drive,” said Linda. “Texting is epidemic, I mean people talking on the phone bothers me a lot, but texting is even worse. The phone has become more important than life itself.”
After the accident Linda went to the Mexican district attorney’s office where, unknown to her at the time, she would be asked what her wishes were regarding charges against the driver who was in custody.
Prior to making that decision she spoke through an interpreter to the young man’s father.
“He (father) just said his family was going through a lot of trouble,” said Linda. “I sat there with him, we’re compassionate people both of us, and I just held his hand because it was two people who were dealing with a loss.
“I had a feeling he (driver) had a future, Eric was not going to come back no matter what I decided and I thought we’re not going to destroy two lives here.
“There’s still a young life that can go forward, that’s the thing Eric would have wanted, we’re not those kind of people, we’re not vindictive, we’re not an eye-for-an-eye. It would do no good.”
So that was the way the matter was left when she returned home to Penticton to try and pick up the pieces of her life with her two daughters, friends and Rotarian family who have remained by her side.
But Linda still has some unfinished business in Mexico.
“I want to go back and show him (driver) pictures and tell him about who Eric was and who our family was,” she said quietly. “He needs to know that when he goes forward, that’s his penance as far as I’m concerned.
“For me it is important to continue Eric’s legacy which I will continue to do in whatever way I can. Eric is not the first and sadly will not be the last.”
At home, distracted driving has been identified as one of the leading causes of injury and death on B.C. roads
As of June 1 the B.C. government implemented much stiffer penalties for distracted drivers. Larger fines, additional penalty points and even driving bans for repeat offenders were among the measures announced.
Figures from 2014 showed distracted drivers were responsible for 66 deaths and seriously injured 630 people in what officials say are tragedies which were 100 per cent preventable.