STARING out of the windscreen in horror, Emma Simmons struggled to stay calm as she was rushed to hospital in the back of a police car to see if her son would live or die.
Moments earlier, two police officers had arrived on her doorstep and delivered the devastating news that her 13-year-old boy Max had been hit by a drug driver, just minutes from their home.
Tragically, when she arrived there was no more the medical staff could do and he passed away – leaving Emma and her family heartbroken.
Now she and another grieving dad are sharing their stories with Sun Online in the hopes of raising awareness of the dangers of drug driving, following photos showing EastEnders actress Maisie Smith smoking what appeared to be a spliff while behind the wheel of her car.
The Sun exclusively revealed that the 19-year-old star, who plays Tiffany Butcher in Albert Square, had been spotted pulling onto wasteland to puff away on the “strong smelling” rolled-up cigarette.
Driving under the influence of cannabis can result in a minimum one-year driving ban, an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.
It was revealed last year, in the most recent stats made public, that accidents caused by drug-driving Brits had more than doubled in the past five years.
Government figures revealed there were 1,321 crashes involving a driver under the influence of prescription and illicit drugs in 2018, up from just 594 in 2013.
Shockingly, drug driving caused 80 fatal accidents in 2018, compared to just 31 in 2013.
Here two parents share their own heartbreaking stories, as they plead with drivers not to get behind the wheel with drugs or drink in their system – however small the amount…
Emma Simmons, 37, tragically lost her son Max, 13, on December 21 last year, after he was struck and killed by a drug driver.
The young teenager was walking along a country road near to their home in Cookham near Maidenhead to meet two friends at the time.
Driver James Lavine, 34, has since admitted causing death by careless driving while under the influence of a “cocktail” of drugs including benzoylecgonine – a metabolite of cocaine – and THC (cannabis).
Now Emma, who works as a housekeeper at a nearby private members club, is pleading with other drivers not to get behind the wheel if there’s even a chance they could be over the limit – and admitted seeing photos of Maisie smoking the “spliff” this week left her disappointed and shocked.
“I follow Maisie on TikTok and Facebook, and I just thought, she’s a lovely girl but to see that, it’s just really shocking and disappointing,” she says.
“Lavine got in his car that day knowing he was over the limit. He just had no regard for anybody else.
“Right up to the last minute, when we were in court last week, he still showed no remorse and was still blaming my son for stepping out in the road.
“Unfortunately that’s what people are like when they’re under the influence of drugs. They just don’t care and don’t think about anybody else.
“Even if I was to have one gin and tonic, I wouldn’t even dream about getting in the car, especially after what I’ve been through.
“One is one too many – especially drugs. To even think about getting behind the wheel of a car while knowing you’re under the influence of drugs is just ridiculous.”
Describing her son as “loving and caring” until the end with a “wicked sense of humour”, Emma, who also has son Harry, 17, says she’d spent the whole morning with him on the day he died.
The pair had gone shopping together before she treated him to his favourite McDonald’s breakfast.
“He was feeding pancakes to me as I was driving home,” she recalls.
They were due to have family arriving later that day, and while Emma had asked her son to stay in, he’d begged her to let him go and meet two girl friends who were walking down to see him and his friend – so they didn’t have to walk alone.
“I take great comfort from that and knowing he was being a little gent like I’d taught him,” she says. “I let him go.
I take great comfort from that and knowing he was being a little gent like I’d taught him.
“The police rang me and said they’d come round in a minute to talk to me. I thought, ‘oh God, what’s he done?’ I didn’t think any more than that.
“I asked the police officer as she got out of the car if he was with her, and she shook her head. I could see on her face that something wasn’t right.
“When they told me they’d taken him to John Radcliffe in Oxford, I knew it wasn’t just a broken leg.
“They blue lighted me down the motorway at top speed but by the time I got to the hospital, they’d done everything they could do.
“He was gone… It goes over and over in my head every day.”
Emma laid Max to rest with a star galaxy-themed coffin, in tribute to his love for TV series The Big Bang Theory. They also organised a magician for the wake and a DJ too – all funded by Emma’s community in a hugely kind gesture to the family.
“It’s like the birthday party he didn’t have,” she says.
Max wasn’t listening to music and wasn’t on the phone when he was struck by the car, and he knew the road he was on well – with many of the local kids walking along it to get to school.
“At first I was numb and in a state of shock,” Emma adds. “But then the anger came later.
“I really appreciate now that Theresa May has jumped on the dangerous driving bill – it means a lot.”
Lavine was sentenced to six years and nine months behind bars this month.
“He’ll only do three years if that, so it’s just not enough knowing he was under the influence,” Emma says. “He killed my son, so he should spend life behind bars.
“If we can help save one more family from going through this, it will be well worth the cause.”
Tony Borg, 55, from Newport, tragically lost his step-daughter Xana, 19, on January 9th, 2015.
Xana was killed when the car she was a passenger in flipped over near Newport, as she was driven home from a party.
Driver Sakhawat Ali, aged 23 at the time, was twice the drink-drive limit and was also high on cocaine and cannabis.
It’s claimed his cousin Shabaz Ali, 21, who also had drugs in his system, likely grabbed the handbrake while they were driving at speed, distracting the driver.
Xana was in the backseat at the time, and tragically died shortly afterwards.
Now the top boxing trainer, who is married to Xana’s mum Emma, 45, is begging all drivers to think twice before getting behind the wheel – even if it’s just after one cigarette or one drink.
He says while he’s been “foolish” in the past himself and has been driven around by someone smoking a spliff, he’s now seen the horrendous impact it can have first-hand.
He says of the Maisie pictures: “I won’t be a hypocrite. I’ve been a boxer all my life so I’ve never taken drugs and never will.
“But I have been in situations where friends of mine have been smoking a spliff and driving the car.
“However, when something like this happens to you it’s a smack in the face. It really wakes you up. I’d never condone it now. I’d never do it now.
“It’s so obvious, think of yourself when you’re sober, then think of the things you do when you’ve had a drink or drugs… then magnify that when you’re driving along a motorway at 60mph.”
Tony says losing “bubbly” and “stunning” Xana, who was doing an apprenticeship in hair and beauty when she died, was one of the most devastating moments of his life.
“I’m normally stone cold and hard as nails. But it was different with Xana,” he says.
On the morning they found out, Tony recalls being driven to his gym by Emma when they saw police cars and ambulances. Little did they know, it was their own daughter’s crash they were seeing from afar.
The moment he knew that something had happened, however, was when Emma rang him later that morning as she rushed to the Royal Gwent Hospital – having heard Xana was there.
“She was screaming at me saying, ‘I can’t park’,” he recalls.
Tony directed Emma through it on the phone the whole time, before hearing her run inside.
“I was on my way to the hospital when she started screaming down the phone,” he says.
“There was a nurse, a doctor and two police officers who told her. My stomach was turning over.
“I got there and they took us down to the mortuary, and there was Xana.
“Emma was saying, ‘I knew this was a wind up’, as she ran over and clutched at her and kissed her. She knew deep down, but she was convincing herself it was a wind up.
“I’ve never felt anything like it. The whole family were in one area and I watched our whole family fall apart, literally in front of my eyes.
“My eyes filled up and I ran out – I didn’t want them to see me cry. I’ve never been touched by anything like that, before or since.”
For Tony, however, the hardest part for him came in the days that followed, when he claims the men responsible for Xana’s death attempted to lie their way out of it – claiming they’d never been in the car at all.
It was later revealed it was owned by one of their mothers, and they only eventually pleaded guilty in court later on.
“They denied all knowledge of it until months later, when the s*** has hit the fan,” he says. “Our family didn’t deserve to be jiggered like that.
“My message now is, just don’t do it. Forget it, don’t even contemplate it. Tell your mate don’t and you don’t.”
Sakhawat was jailed for eight years, while Shabaz got seven years and three months following Xana’s death.