ST.PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Starting Wednesday night, also called “Blackout Wednesday,” extra patrols will be out on the roads looking for drunk drivers.
The night before Thanksgiving is a popular night for people to go out to the bars and celebrate the long holiday weekend. To stress the importance of getting a sober ride home, two families who lost their loved ones to drunk driving shared their stories.
Last year in Minnesota, 74 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver.
“So sorry for your loss, our prayers are with you, if there is anything we can do please let us know. These are the words that nobody wants to hear,” said Hitesh Patel, whose niece was killed by a drunk driver.
Hitesh Patel’s niece, Ria, was killed in September after getting into the car with a man who had been drinking. He’s now sharing his story in hopes she’ll be the last one to die at the hands of a drunk driver.
“She was forever smiling, kind hearted, loveable, cheerful and just a golden heart,” Hitesh Patel said.
Ria was 20 years old, a student at the University of St. Thomas. She was at a party with Campbell the night she died.
The two left after midnight and three hours later, the car they were in crashed and Campbell took off.
“He was most likely drunk, he fled for two days. We’ll never know why he abandoned her. He left her to die,” Hitesh Patel said.
Minneapolis Police Officer Catherine Michal knows that pain all too well.
“This will be the 10th Christmas without Deanna. It is never the same, your life is forever changed because of one person making a bad choice,” Michal said.
Her 16-year-old daughter, Deanna, was killed by a drunk driver in 2006.
“Did Deanna deserve to die that way? Absolutely not. Does anybody deserve to die that way? No,” Michal said.
Two families forever impacted by one person’s bad decision, the decision to get behind the wheel after a night of drinking.
“My request, my plea to everybody is please, please make good choices,” Michal said.
“Please don’t drink and drive because you’re ruining more than one life,” Hitesh Patel said.
Michael Campbell was charged in Ria Patel’s death. He faces up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.