Why We’re Here: The Bassi Family


Denise and Gerard Bassi

On Christmas morning in 2007, Denise and Gerard Bassi called their daughter, Melanie, to wish her a Merry Christmas.  For the first time, the Bassis and their three daughters, Melanie, Jennifer and Michelle, weren’t spending Christmas day together because Denise and Gerard were spending the holiday with Denise’s parents in Florida, and their daughters were unable to make the trip.

The Bassis celebrated Christmas with their daughters a week early, before they headed out of town a few days before Christmas. While in Florida, they spoke often with their daughters and each day of their trip had fun stories to tell—they were having a great time.

Christmas day, on the way to a family member’s house for dinner, they were stopped at a traffic light when a 34-year old man driving at a very high rate of speed smashed into the rear of their truck – “like a missile into a building” as one witness described it. 

Gerard Bassi died at the scene, Denise died a few hours later in surgery, and Denise’s mother, Linda McWilliams, died a week later from her injuries.  Denise’s father, Ray McWilliams, survived, but the crash caused permanent injuries that greatly affected his life. 

Linda and Ray McWilliams

The man who hit them not only survived, but had no major injuries. He was driving under the influence of alcohol, Xanax, and cocaine, and this was not the first time he was arrested for DUI.   

Though the offender was arrested shortly after the crash, pretrial went on for years and the criminal trial was postponed twice.  Finally, the trial was set to begin on August 23, 2011.  The offender was facing approximately 35 years to life in prison.  Exactly one week prior to the start of the trial, he pled guilty to the DUI charges and was sentenced to 12 years in jail followed by 10 years of probation.

“Not only is there the immediate loss, the sting of losing so many loved ones, but the long fight for justice was frustrating and grueling,” said Melanie Bassi.

The family was connected with a MADD victim advocate in Florida, who provided victim services during the trial. Melanie says, “Working with MADD was extremely helpful and I greatly appreciate their support. “

Melanie now shares the story of how her life changed in an instant as a speaker for MADD.  Among other activities with MADD, she speaks at Victim Impact Panels and school programs and says it is her way of giving back.

This holiday season, please keep victims like the Bassi family in mind as you celebrate with friends and loved ones. Always plan ahead with a non-drinking designated driver and remind others to do the same. 

The Bassi Family

 


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