Viiu Ann Varik

Jun 19, 1956 - Aug 27, 1997

Ontario, Canada

Gallery of Sketches (if you have any you would like to include, please email me!)

The Human Element in Truck Safety

Viiu Varik and David Luginbuhl were killed when their car was struck by a tractor-trailer truck on Highway 401 in Toronto near Keele St. Miraculously, Ms. Varik’s son - six years old at the time of the accident - survived without serious injury. Stephen Wenzel, boyfriend of Viiu Varik, writes to us about the deeper kinds of injuries he and Viiu’s son now face:

With Viiu’s being killed, a large part of me was killed as well. I was Viiu’s "Sweetie", her boyfriend. We shared an intense, very loving, wonderful relationship, the depth of which I’ve never known. I have written volumes about what Viiu means to me; here I’ll deal with how her death has affected me.

I am in my second bereavement support group, as well as being in a stress reduction program, in an attempt to ascertain if there’s any point in going on with my life. I am perpetually depressed - the severe depressions are the worst. During these I cannot stop crying, I fall to pieces and wish I was dead. Not a day goes by where I don’t wish I had been killed with Viiu, I am absolutely inconsolable. And yet my own troubles seem so trite when I hear her seven year old son, Heiki, who survived the crash that claimed his mom and their friend Dave, say "I really miss those days before Viiu was dead." It rips my heart out when he looks me in the eye and asks: "Do you miss Viiu?", then goes on to say "Nobody misses her more than I do, ‘cause she made the most beautifullest music."

I have recently come off a sickness claim with E.I. (Employment Insurance) for depression, and am finally, six months after Viiu’s death, in a position to begin looking for work, in a vain attempt to collect what remains of my sanity and pick up the pieces of my shattered life. I have lost all will to live; I miss Viiu terribly each and every day. It feels like a gaping hole has been ripped in my heart, and nothing will ever fill that vast chasm. I have been told this gets easier with time, but have yet to experience that.

I love Viiu as much now as I did when she was here with me, with us all, with an undying love that will blossom for the rest of my days. The future seems a bleak, desolate place, a black, nightmarish existence, without the woman I so dearly love by my side.

The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, June 21, 2001
The Truth About Cars & Trucks: Part Two: Asleep at the
TOLL OF THE ROAD: `Any load of freight is not worth a human life'

* Ralph Robinson said he swerved to avoid a car that had cut him off.

But he lost control of his rig, veered onto the shoulder of Highway 401 in Toronto and barrelled into Viiu Varik, 41, and David Luginbuhl, 22.

They were changing a flat tire when the rig struck and crushed them to death.

Ms. Varik's six-year-old boy was inside their 1983 Chevrolet station wagon when the rig slammed into it. Incredibly, he suffered only minor injuries.

"I swerved to the right and that car was in the lane so I hit him," Mr. Robinson told a television reporter after the crash.

The August 1997 accident ended the lives of two accomplished musicians, and turned Ms. Varik's boyfriend, Stephen Wenzel, into an advocate to keep tired and inattentive truckers off the road.

Mr. Robinson was later convicted of careless driving and sentenced to 30 days in jail, to be served on weekends. His driver's licence was also suspended for one year.

Mr. Robinson, 47, was portrayed in court as a veteran trucker with an unblemished driving record.

"My heart goes out to the bereaved families, but a lengthy jail term will not bring back the deceased," said Judge M.F. Khoorshed. Even Mr. Luginbuhl's father described the sentence as fair and said a tougher penalty would only destroy someone else's life.

Since his girlfriend's death, Mr. Wenzel has taken his fight against tired truckers to the media and Queen's Park.

"I don't feel that any load of freight is worth a human life."

He has said his campaign is intended to spare others pain. "It has been an absolute living hell."

The Toronto Star
NEWS Saturday, August 30, 1997

Crash victims recalled as vibrant musicians

Viiu Varik didn't visit her friends, she "roared on by."

It was her favorite expression when she phoned up someone to say she was dropping by for a chat.

"That's what it was like, a tornado at your door," recalled Peter Bavis as he reminisced yesterday about his high school friend, who was killed, along with David Luginbuhl, when they were hit by a transport while parked on the shoulder of Highway 401 early Thursday morning.

"She was not just some person standing on the side of the road. She was a very special woman," said Cathy Bavis, 40.

Sitting in the living room of their Etobicoke home, the couple described Varik as a talented musician and a devoted mother.

Varik, 41, and Luginbuhl, 22, were killed when a transport truck veered off the westbound centre express lane of Highway 401 near Keele St. The truck hit her station wagon as they were changing a flat tire on the shoulder of the road.

Varik's son, Heiki Naelapea-Varik, 6, who was in the car, was pulled from the wreck by passersby. He is now with his father, Kalle Naelapea, a maintenance technician with the CBC.

"(Heiki) is doing good. He's uninjured. He's at home today playing in the back yard," said Ontario Provincial Police Constable Paul Brothers.

Varik played the string bass for the Etobicoke Philharmonic Orchestra, the Toronto Chamber Orchestra and also performed as a studio musician, said Peter Bavis, 41.

"She was scraping her money together to go over to Europe to audition for a job she was recommended for," he said. "I just can't believe she's gone." She had recovered from cervical cancer about 10 years ago and thought she would never be able to have children, he said.

Luginbuhl's uncle, also named David, told The Star Thursday that music was central in his nephew's life. He was about to graduate as a music student at the University of Toronto.

Copyright © 1997 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.