The Scheib family has always been very close – even with extended family. Kelly Scheib says that growing up, they did everything together: cookouts, camping, etc. Kelly’s older sister, Keri, was the life of the party. She was very sociable and very active. She loved anything outdoors: swimming, volleyball, scuba diving, softball, four-wheeling. Kelly says, “Keri was very headstrong and was going to do what she wanted no matter what you told her.” She fondly remembers a time when Keri got the “bright idea to wear swimmies on her ankles while in the pool.” “I don’t think she thought that out very far,” laughs Kelly. “She ended up head-first in the pool and had a hard time coming up for air.”
Everyone loved Keri, especially high school sweetheart, Blake Tidwell. Keri was 15 and Blake was 18. He had joked that Keri was probably only dating him because he could drive her anywhere she wanted! But they had lots of fun together. In fact, they were goofing off on a trampoline at Keri’s house when Blake ended up breaking his right ankle. Since Blake was unable to drive, his mom, Pamela, agreed to serve as chauffer the next night when Keri came over for pizza.
But when Keri was late for her 9pm curfew that night, Larry and Carolyn Scheib began to worry. So when Carolyn’s brother called to say he had seen a really bad wreck about 2 blocks from their house and wanted to make sure everyone was home safe, Carolyn sent her husband to check it out.
What he saw would change their lives forever. On their way to take Keri home at about 8:40pm, a drunk driver had run a red light at high speed, slamming into the side of the Tidwells’ car so hard that it sent them smashing into a third car before coming to rest against a telephone pole. The drunk driver had then spun out and hit two additional cars.
Larry was directed to Metro General Hospital not knowing the fate of his oldest daughter. They brought him some of Keri’s jewelry. When he confirmed it was hers, they took him to another room where his beautiful, vibrant 15-year-old daughter lay under a sheet waiting to be identified. Keri, Blake, and Pamela were all three killed in the crash. The driver had received his first DUI 8 days before the fatal five-car wreck on February 11, 1993, that took the lives of three innocent people.
“Drunk driving crashes not only affect the victims of the crash, it affects their family members, friends, even the emergency personnel there to help them,” says Keri’s sister, Kelly. “There wasn’t one person (in our family) who wasn’t affected when Keri was killed.
When asked how she’s been impacted by the loss, Kelly replies, “It’s always the missed days – missed sweet sixteen, driver’s license, graduation, wedding. What type of person she would have become? For me, the big impact is that I am now an only sister. I don’t have that person to tell my secrets to and share my joys with. When I turned 16, I became older than my big sister. That was very hard to me to get over.”
Larry and Carolyn became very active with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Larry told Keri’s story at Victim Impact Panels for 17 years hoping that her story would save at least one life – that people would think before they get behind the wheel intoxicated. But after the man that killed his daughter served 12 years in prison, then racked up 3 additional DUI’s and a public intoxication charge (at a business on the very corner where his daughter was killed), Larry decided it was time to take a break. “I just wish that at some point in time he would wake up,” Larry reflected.
But Kelly knows too well the damage that was done that can never be repaired. “When the wreck occurred I lost my innocence. I had to grow up and face a new reality. Our family dynamics changed – life around us kept moving, but we were missing a big part of family and it’s hard to learn how to function after that.”
Keri, who wanted to be a marine biologist, never graduated from high school or college. She never married or had children. Kelly lost a chance to be an aunt. Larry and Carolyn will never hold Keri’s children in their arms.
The family says it’s been over 20 years since the crash, and they still remember. It proves that an impaired driving crash is just the beginning for those left behind, because after the initial crash is when the lifelong impact is really felt.