Families of DUI victims shine light at Fresno vigil

The Fresno BeeAugust 22, 2014 

"Frank told me he would be home by 3:30 a.m. — and that he loved me," said Nancy Winslow, wife of a man killed by a recently convicted drunken driver.

"The doorbell rang at around 6 a.m., and I was ready to yell at him for ringing the doorbell at such an ungodly hour. But when I opened the door and found my neighbor and a man with 'coroner' written on his T-shirt, a sound came from me I couldn't identify. And I was broken."

Winslow's heart-breaking comments were some of the victim testimonials heard Friday evening at the annual Central California Mothers Against Drunk Driving candlelight vigil.

Around 100 people — many having lost a loved one to a drunken driver — gathered in the parking lot of Crosspoint Church in east-central Fresno to remember those lost, rekindle a sense of hope and spread awareness of what spokeswoman Victoria Flores called a vicious crime.

Law enforcement and government officials were on hand as well. California Highway Patrol Central Division Chief Jim Abrames stressed the importance of community involvement in curbing drunken driving. He said that the CHP in the Valley investigated more than 800 DUI-related crashes and 63 deaths in 2013 — and that's just one of many local law enforcement agencies.

Abrames said these numbers are down in 2014, but the community can't stop there. "Unfortunately," he said in an address to the victims, "there will almost certainly be a DUI accident in our area tonight. Statistically, we will be adding another family to this list of grievers by the end of the week. We can't bring any of them back, but we can hope for a better future."

Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan outlined the steps her office has taken to punish those responsible. She said that when she first took over the office, there was only one misdemeanor attorney handling these cases. There is now a thriving unit working closely with homicide prosecutors to secure murder convictions and serious penalties for DUI offenders, she said.

Flores, who coordinated the event, lost her son Rick to a drunken driver in March 2010. Since that day, she has dedicated herself to the cause of ridding the Fresno area of drunken driving.

"We are here tonight to create awareness of the problem, but there's something more important," she said. "Choice. Choice is the most important reason for this event. If we can show people just how bad their choices can be, then we have prevented further loss."

 

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6015 or at rappleton@fresnobee.com.

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