Feb. 12, 2012, a DD took both of my sons from me and changed my family and I life forever. Who knew that a simple trip to the grocery store would end up like this. On that day, after an afternoon of drinking, partying and mudding in the back woods of eastern North Port, a DD ran a stop sign at Yorkshire Street and East Price Boulevard around 5 p.m and t-boned my car on passenger side sending my sons (Josh and Krishna) and I airborne landing nearly 70 feet off the road into the woods. I tried to get out of the car to help Josh, who was in the rear passenger seat, but I could not stand and collapsed, I cried out for someone to help my sons. Laying on the ground next to my car helpless all I could do was beg for bystanders to check on my sons. I don’t remember the first two weeks after the crash, I woke up in Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, learning Josh was on life support and clinically dead at Blake Medical Center in BradentonI had to read nurses’ notes to see how I grieved my son’s death. My biggest regret is not being at Josh’s side in his dying moment, when he really needed me. Joshua’s death was violent, he suffered major head trauma, a cervical fracture that would have left him a vegetable if he lived. Krishna was bleeding internally, on a ventilator and in a coma at Lee Memorial. He nearly didn’t make it. Today, he’s mentally and physically disabled, has scars he can’t figure out how he got, and needs a total hip replacement. He doesn’t always remember his son was born shortly after the crash, on Valentine’s Day. My daughter, Malaina, who was eight months pregnant at the time of the accident was left to deal with her whole family being hospitalized, being torn between Lee County and Manatee County. I could never imagine the feelings she had having to assume all the responsibilities and decision making in regards to her family that were placed at her feet. Thankfully my sister Ranae was right there by her side to help and support her. At the hospital she sat alone with Josh singing ‘Amazing Grace.’ Holding his hand, I wondered did I tell him enough that I loved him.

DD pleaded no contest to DUI manslaughter, DUI with bodily injury and DUI with property damage. In addition to 12 years behind bars, and must serve eight years of probation. He must wear a DUI monitoring bracelet for a year, sign up for DUI classes and any recommended DUI treatment, submit to random urine tests and give a DNA sample, and perform 50 hours of community service. In addition, his driver’s license is revoked for life and he must write an apology letter. The Judge let me add to his sentencing which he has to participate in speaking engagements at high schools when he gets out of prison. If he can’t do them at a school, he must tell his story in front of a victim impact panel, church, driver education or YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, recovery or young veterans groups. Through my tears, i told the DD that instead of getting Josh’s report card in the mail, I receive letters from recipients who received his organs. I felt like his (courtroom) apology was sincere and took the plea, which shows his character. He didn’t make us go through a trial The DD who faced 21 years in prison, told the family he was sorry for taking “both” of my sons away.“I am deeply sorry,” he said.
— Erin Sechrest

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