Thiago de Moraes Gonzaga

Died in a car crash: 20 May 1995

We have to change the way we think about crashes – the majority of people think that crashes are due to fate. We have to think of a crash as a preventable event, that a death in a crash is a premature death.
Diza Gonzaga, mother of the victim

On 20 May 1995, my son Thiago was killed, along with another boy, in a car crash in an urban area of Porto Alegre (the capital of Rio Grande do Sul state in Brazil), less than 18 miles from our house. Thiago was a student and he died just a week before his 18th birthday.

The collision occurred when Thiago was returning from a party early in the morning. He was in the back seat of the car with another passenger, very likely without a seat-belt. The driver was an 18-year-old boy without a driver’s licence. The car collided with a trash container that was wrongly parked on the street. The car was speeding and the driver had probably consumed alcohol, but no test was done to determine if the alcohol in his blood was within the permitted level.

An ambulance arrived quickly but both passengers had already died. The driver survived. A passer-by who knows us called my house and 15 minutes later we were there. I found my son dead, lying on the ground. I will never forget that sight.

The funeral service office told us about the insurance, which was around US$ 3000. Over a period of six months, we used the money to publish notices about our son’s death.

It was as if our family had all died together but then we had to begin again a new life. To lose a son is an inversion of the natural order of life. In this case, it was not only an economic loss but also a devastating emotional loss. I stopped working after my son’s death: I don’t have the heart to work. It seems as if I have never been an architect. My husband stopped working for a month. He had difficulty teaching because he usually used to see some of our son’s characteristics in his students. He still has this difficulty 10 years after. Special days and moments are difficult for us to deal with: Christmas, birthdays, Mothers Day and going shopping. My seven-year-old son had to be treated by a psychologist for four years, and a hearing and speech specialist for two years. He had problems with his speech and he did not study that year. My 20-year-old daughter, who was in the last year of her university education, abandoned her studies and decided to go abroad. We cannot measure emotional problems; they are more severe than physical damage. The government does not provide support for these kinds of problems. For the government, problems end with death.

I am now working for a nongovernmental organization, Fundação Thiago Gonzaga, which has developed a campaign called Vida Urgente, whose main objective is to promote road safety. We wanted to educate people and not just inform them. I would like to say that crashes, injuries and deaths are a preventable tragedy in Brazil. Everybody must be involved in changing this reality: educators, teachers, media, doctors and pediatricians. We have to change the way we think about crashes – the majority of people think that crashes are due to fate. We have to think of a crash as a preventable event, that a death in a crash is a premature death.

We hope to prevent pains and suffering like ours.

Diza Gonzaga, mother of the victim

Road crashes are not "accidents". They are predictable and thus preventable.

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Thiago de Moraes Gonzaga
Thiago de Moraes Gonzaga