Statistically speaking, getting in your car in the morning and driving to work is one of the most dangerous activities you will participate in each day. Turn that car ride from a simple work commute to an 8 or more hour return trip from Blackwater River in Florida to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the degree of danger you put yourself in increases exponentially as you are exposed to more distracted drivers, large trucks, and drunk drivers. Rebecca DeNardis, a senior with a full scholarship to Duke with a double major in mathematics and computer science, was killed by a drunk driver in Crestview, Florida while making this exact trip.
After a week of camping and canoeing on the Blackwater River with Duke’s Outdoor Adventure Program, five students and the program director headed back to school as an intoxicated man, Martin Zackery Hale, made the fatal decision to get into his car and continue onto the road. Hale crossed over the Interstate 10 median and struck the van, killing DeNardis and severely injuring another student.
According to DeNaris’s father, his daughter had many gifts, including being bright enough and talented enough to gain a full scholarship to one of the most prestigious Universities in the country, and that she had a job lined up at Google for when she graduated in May.
The DeNaris family is not alone in their grief. Just one month ago, four fraternity brothers from the University of South Florida were killed when a possibly drunk driver headed the wrong way on I275 crashed head-on into their vehicle. Toxicology reports are still pending in that case. That same day, a drunken 21 year old in Pomona, California also collided head-on with multiple vehicles, killing 6 innocent victims. In that case, the drunk driver has been charged with 6 counts of murder and is being held on $6,000,000 bail.
Nothing can be done to salvage the emptiness left to the families of these victims. However, we encourage victims and family members of victims of drunk drivers to pursue legal remedies to ensure that families can get the answers and justice that they deserve.
(Hale is currently charged with six counts of “DUI and damage to property,” as well as “DUI and serious bodily injury to another” and “DUI cause death to human” and has yet to be convicted of any charges).