A bereaved father whose 19-year-old son died in a car crash has spoken out in support of Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s (KFRS) innovative Road Safety Experience, the UK’s only interactive road safety education centre, which is due to open in Rochester in April.
In August 2013, Pete and Kate Funnell, from Coxheath near Maidstone lives were thrown in to turmoil with the devastating news that their 19-year-old son Will had been killed in a car crash.
Will Funnell was returning from a night out when the vehicle he was travelling in as a front-seat passenger spun out of control on a country road in Linton, near Maidstone.
The car - believed to have been travelling at over 80 miles per hour at the time - careered into the path of an oncoming 4X4 vehicle, and the impact killed both Will and the vehicle’s 21-year-old driver instantly.
Later, it was discovered that the driver had been nearly three times over the legal drink drive limit and also had traces of drugs in his system.
Pete Funnell said: "Our world was ripped apart the moment our blue-eyed boy was taken from us and a huge void now exists for my wife and I, as well as our family and friends.
"Will was a beautiful person, of whom we were immensely proud. He had everything to live for, but on that terrible night his life was cut so suddenly short. We may never know exactly how our son came to be travelling in that car or what made him choose to accept a lift in a car that was driven at speed by a drink driver, but we have to live with the fact that this huge mistake cost him his life."
"I would encourage every parent, school and college in Kent and Medway to make visiting Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s Road Safety Experience an essential activity for the young people in their care.
"It has been designed to hit home the potentially devastating impact that a split second decision can have on their lives, as well as the lives of others around them. I hope it will encourage other young people, just like our Will, to think more carefully about the choices they make and help them realise there’s always another option, they don’t have to get in that car or drive that car."
The ultimate aim of the Road Safety Experience is to create a visitor centre specifically focused on activities that will contribute, alongside key multi-agency campaigns, to a reduction in the disproportionately high number of young people killed and seriously injured on the roads in Kent and Medway.
KFRS Road Safety and Safeguarding Manager Alexa Kersting-Woods said: "The Road Safety Experience will be free to all schools, colleges and organised groups in Kent and Medway and is specifically designed to appeal to young people aged 14 to 24, offering a unique learning opportunity to help them stay safer on our county’s roads.
"It will provide an all-round experience with interactive learning zones providing thought-provoking insights around risks and responsibilities to help young people to develop the essential skills they need to make informed decisions as a driver or passenger."
For further information about the centre, to pre-book a group visit and to view a video fly- through please visit www.roadsafetyexperience.co.uk .
The centre is currently under construction in Marconi Way, (near Rochester Airport), and will be located next to the new fire station also being built on this site. It is due to open in April 2016.
Peter Funnell has kindly shared his account of losing his son in a short video produced by Kent Fire and Rescue Service Pete also talks about the work The Will Funnell Trust, a family bereavement charity that the family have set up in memory of Will. For further information about the work of the charity contact TheWillFunnellTrust@Gmail.com or call 07969 527 623.
Fund raising event
The Will Funnell Trust is holding a special fundraising gala evening to officially launch the charity on Saturday 27 June. The event will take place at the Mercury Great Danes Hotel in Hollingbourne by contacting the charity on the details above.