TORONTO - Being involved in a car accident can be a scary ordeal.
But when that wreck happens while you're visiting communist Cuba, you're only 19 and you suddenly find yourself detained for months on end facing up to three years in prison -- whether you were at fault or not -- it's downright frightening.
"I still can't believe all of this is happening. I don't understand why I'm still here," a distraught Cody LeCompte told the Toronto Sun Wednesday over the phone from his hotel room in Santa Lucia, where he has basically been imprisoned since April 29.
"I've been terrified I'm going to end up in a Cuban prison," said the teen from the small town of Simcoe, in southwestern Ontario. "And I just found out from my lawyer that's a very real possibility."
LeCompte just graduated high school in February and, soon after, he learned he had been accepted to the aviation technician program at Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie.
His mom, Danette, decided to reward him by springing for a two-week trip to Cuba.
"It was supposed to be our one last getaway as mother and son," Danette explained.
At the time, Cody couldn't have been happier. But since then the teen's life has been turned upside down.
"It's just been an absolute nightmare," Danette said.
Two days after arriving in the impoverished country, a popular holiday choice among Canadians, the mother and son decided to rent a car and head to the city of Canaguey.
Danette's cousin, who tagged along on the vacation, and his Cuban fiancee were also in the Hyundai Accent, driven by Cody.
Just 40 minutes into their trip, Danette said they were travelling through an intersection, which had no stop signal or traffic light, when a large truck "broadsided" their vehicle.
All four occupants of the Hyundai were badly banged up and had to be driven to hospital by locals, Danette said.
But the LeCompte family's troubles were just beginning.
After the accident, they learned about a "bizarre" Cuban law that dictates any accident resulting in death or injury is treated as a crime and the onus is on the driver to prove innocence.
"You're guilty until proven innocent," Danette said, adding Cody hasn't been charged with anything.
Their travel agent, a Sunwing representative advised them Cody was not allowed to leave the country. Three months later, Cody still doesn't have a court date.
His mother, who returned home briefly to get her financial affairs in order and is now back in Cuba, has been paying $90 a day for his room and meals at the resort.
The hotel, the extra airfares, rental cars, a Cuban lawyer and other expenses have so far cost the single mom $30,000.
"That's money we don't have," Danette said.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has been sitting on its hands waiting for Cuba's wheels of justice to slowly turn.
"The Canadian government cannot interfere in the judicial process of a foreign country," said Dana Cryderman, a Foreign Affairs spokesman.