The phone connection kept dropping. By the third time, Pat Korte told his oldest son, Chase, who was driving out to the middle of the California desert to film a few scenes for an independent movie, to just call him back after he wrapped up the shoot.
At the end of an early February day in 2007, Chase called back, excited to be finishing a movie about world peace that involved him walking 1,100 miles across Scotland and England. The theater major told his dad about his love of acting and his love of helping others.
Then, 15 minutes into the call, static.
Pat called back.
That would be the last time Pat spoke to Chase.
The offender had a fight with his wife about losing money at a casino. Drunk and full of rage, he left his wife and young daughter at the casino, put his three-year-old son in his brand new Hemi and tore out of the parking lot. Driving 162 miles per hour, he passed one family. And another. And another.
He missed hitting three vehicles loaded with multiple people. But Chase was not so lucky. The offender “hit him like a missile. He was killed instantly. He didn’t stand a chance,” Pat said.
Chase’s body was burnt beyond recognition and required dental records to identify him.
Soon, Pat learned that the offender might not even be charged with a DUI. Then, he discovered that the case was being moved to court hours away from him and the crash because “it was more convenient for the driver and his attorney.”
The court case
For more than two years, Pat attended every court hearing, witnessed every delay and sat there every time the driver entered the room. The day before jury selection began, the offender accepted a plea bargain that resulted in four years in prison for the DUI and 9 months for child endangerment.
The driver’s insurance paid out $15,000, not even enough to cover the damage to Chase’s car and personal items. Pat turned it down. Instead, he insisted the offender pay $500 every year on the crash anniversary to World Vision, which helps victims of human trafficking. Several weeks before his death, Chase had told Pat he wanted to make a difference in the lives of sexually abused women.
“I wanted him to think about Chase at least once a year,” Pat said. “Every year, it’s been late. He never really confessed or accepted responsibility for the crash. At the very least, he could think about Chase and the future he ended once a year.”
The offender, after being released from prison, after serving substantially less than half of his sentence, has been picked up again for another DUI.
TEN YEARS LATER
The Minnesota Walk Like MADD event, a tent pole of fundraising for the office that funds its programs and victim support services, appeared to be in trouble.
Coinciding events, medical issues and other challenges meant a core group of 150 past Walk participants couldn’t join this year, endangering the Walk’s ability to reach its goal.
“It was a perfect storm of situations the like of which I have never seen before in 30 years of doing events,” said Mothers Against Drunk Driving Minnesota Executive Director Art Morrow.
With less than two weeks to go before the Walk, in stepped Pat and his wife Linda – and, of course, Chase.
The Act For Chase miracle of giving began with a $10,000 donation from the Korte’s and a challenge for others to match their donation.
Together, they raised more than $20,650 in memory of their son. Nearly 100 people donated. The fundraiser remains open through Oct. 16th.
“I was overwhelmed by the response from the community. Donations came in in five and ten dollar denominations from people who still remembered Chase and people who never even knew him,” Pat said. “My son was a rising star when he died, and he was once again during this Walk. He would be proud to have been part of this lifesaving mission.”