By Olivia Kelleher
A woman who lost her husband, son and unborn daughter when her family were involved in a crash with a suicidal driver has focused her grief in to raising hundreds of thousands of euro for charity.
Elber and Con Twomey from Meelin, Co Cork, were involved in an accident in Torquay in Devon in July of 2012 in which their sixteen month old son Oisín died. Mrs Twomey was five months pregnant at the time of the collision. Doctors failed in their attempt to save her unborn child. Con died in hospital ten months later.
The occupant of the other vehicle, Polish taxi driver Marek Wojciechowski (26), died after being taken to hospital. He was being pursued by police at the time of the crash and had left a suicide note.
Elber says she is honoured that a Chief Superintendent from Cornwall police, with whom she has forged links, is to travel to Ireland for the Twomey memorial weekend which takes place on June 9th.
The event is held annually on the birthday of her late husband Con and involves charity cycles, walks and a pub quiz. Mr Twomey was a builder by trade. In his spare time he was involved in GAA and was a talented hurler.
Elber told the Opinion Line, on Cork's 96FM, that following the tragedy she has worked with police and gardai in a bid to further educate their personnel on how to handle sensitive cases involving suicidal motorists.
Police in the UK have changed their protocols in relation to the pursuit of suicidal drivers in recent years. Elber says often there isn't huge awareness on how to deal with suicidal motorists.
Since the passing of her loved ones she has been an advocate for such training.
She says gardai in Templemore have increased their training in relation to the issue since 2015.
She stresses "there is no right way or wrong way" of doing things but insists officers who are dealing with suicidal motorists need to "handle them with care." She warns that suicidal drivers are not bank robbers and need to be treated differently.
"Suicide is so prevalent and suicidal attempts and ideation that it is all too frequent for them (gardai) to get a call that somebody is missing. While you can't predict what the poor suicidal soul will do the least the guard is entitled to is to have some level of training and awareness."
The Twomey family were on holiday in the UK at the time of the accident as because Elber was pregnant they felt it was safer not to fly and instead opted for a "home away from home" trip. The family had a "magical time" before tragedy struck.
Elber says she has developed a sense of compassion for the driver. However, initially she found it hard to get past feeling anger towards the man "who had destroyed her life." Eventually she began to include Marek in her prayers.
"I was lighting candles for the holy souls in church and I lit a candle for Marek. It was the best thing I ever did. I will pray for him every day of my life."
Annual memorial weekends in Meelin and Rockchapel over the last few years have raised hundreds of thousands of euro for suicide aware charities. Elber says she "can't take an ounce of credit"
for the weekends as they were the brainchild of close friends of her late husband.
"We can all get wound up in the everyday run of the mill things but it is good to remind people that we need to stop and take heed of what you have and say 'do you know what I am lucky?' It (the weekend)
is an emotional rollercoaster.