David Cook, my son, was killed July 17, 2011. He was on his way home from visiting his sister when he was hit by a pick-up truck driven by a drunk driver. David was on a motorcycle, the truck flipped twice on impact. The driver left the scene, when he was captured he laughed when the officer told him that he killed someone. The offender, Robert Banko, was driving drunk on a suspended license, he had no insurance and obtained the truck he was driving illegally. He was also a repeat DUI offender. His BAC 5 hours after the crash was .16, he refused a field sobriety test and the officers had to secure a court order to obtain a blood test. His sentence was 2 ½ to 5 years with 2 years of probation. He was released from prison on the 5th anniversary of my son’s death. Banko was denied parole twice as he did not work the program in prison, he did not take accountability for his actions and he showed no remorse. The second time he was denied parole, the parole board deemed him a threat to society in addition to the previously mentioned reason for the denial.
David was 34 at the time of the crash. He was the father of 3 children who he adored. He was a devoted husband, a beloved son and best friend to his sister. He served in the Marine Corp, something he was very proud of. The most important thing to David was family. He loved his parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, but most of all he loved his wife and his children. David had many friends, several continue to leave massages on his Facebook page.
His children are without a father to guide and protect them. All of us live our lives without his hugs, his laughter and his love for life. We had a sentence given to us that will never allow our lives to return to what they were, some would call that the “normal”. Robert Banko took from us something he had no right to take, my son. He did this because he chose to drive intoxicated and has never expressed a word of remorse for his actions.
I have a granddaughter who has become a new driver and two grandsons who will be driving in the future. I do not want to go through this pain again, I want to protect them by delivering the message that death due to impaired driving is 100% preventable. This is a journey that I never thought I would take but it is here and it is painfully real, time for change!
Renee Michele Parkinson, our eldest daughter, age 26, was driving home alone from watching Pittsburgh fireworks on July 4, 2007. She was hit from behind by an “experienced,” but first time (caught) drunk driver who hit her at 101mph. He left the scene. When finally caught and BAC drawn more than 3 hours later, it was.152.
The offender was sentenced to 7-14 years. He served 7, was refused parole twice, but on the third try was granted parole in 2016 and is somewhere in the Pittsburgh area.
Trent Allan Grove
Britany Pearl Leger
Three days after turning 15, Zachary Gonzalez was killed by a drugged driver while riding his bike with friends. The driver was found to have valium and cocaine in his system and had five cocaine pipes in his vehicle that all tested positive. His only concern following the crash was getting his “oxys” (OxyContin) out of his car.
Kelli Donlen, Zachary’s aunt and legal guardian, was notified of the crash by the police and told Zachary was killed on scene. They were not allowed to go to the site of the crash and struggled because they were never able to confirm for themselves that it was indeed Zachary. Kelli said she wanted to believe it was a mistake if she didn’t see her nephew for herself. It was Zachary’s friend who confirmed for her that it was indeed Zachary.
Shortly after, Kelli learned that the cause of the crash was placed on Zachary because he and his friends were riding their bikes on a non-pedestrian road. The impaired driver was charged with a DUI and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was sentenced from one to six months in jail and was released on probation after only serving one month. Since his release, he has since been arrested for being drunk in someone else’s car and plead to Disorderly Practice; however, it was not a violation of his parole.
Kelli and her husband, who is the brother to Zachary’s mother, obtained custody of him at the age of 9. Kelli shared Zachary’s father was killed by a substance impaired driver when Zachary was three years old. When Zachary was 9 years old, his mother passed away from leukemia and since that time, Kelli described Zachary as quiet and keeping to himself, trying to make sense of all his losses. Shortly before turning 15, he was beginning to come out of his shell and enjoying life again. For his 15th birthday the family took a trip to Disney World and Kelli said they had a wonderful time. They returned home on Saturday evening and it was the next day, Sunday, January 19, 2014 that Zachary was killed.
The tears and heartache still have not gone away for Kelli, they never will. She struggles with the fact that the man who killed Zachary never should have been driving. She struggles with never having the chance to say goodbye. She does her best to remember all the good times with Zachary but finds herself always thinking of the “firsts” that Zachary will never experience such as prom, graduation, college, driving, marriage and having children. She tries to stay busy and loves talking about Zachary with others. Zachary was active on the wrestling team at his school and the family founded The Zachary Gonzalez Scholarship Program in his honor. Every year they will give out two, $1000 scholarships to students on the wrestling team. They gave out their first two scholarships this past April and plan to do so for as long as they can. The family also participated in their first WALK Like MADD event on September 19th in Philadelphia. Their team, Team Zach, had over 30 members and raised over $1000. Kelli is also working with Representative John Galloway on House Bill #1076 in Zach’s honor that asks for heavier charges in substance impaired crashes when a death of injury occurs. Kelli said she will never stop advocating for stiffer laws and honoring Zachary’s life by telling others about him.
Cori was 23 years old and had a daughter when she lost her life after her fiancé, high on marijuana, drove across a railroad track and was struck by an oncoming train.
Kaitlyn Berry, 24 and her mother Lisa Stamper were driving home from a Lancaster quilt show when a drunk and repeat DUI offender, driving on a suspended license crossed lanes and struck their car. Kaitlyn was killed and Lisa suffered serious and life-changing injuries.
Joey was 28 when he lost his battle for life in 2016 due to complications from a traumatic brain and spinal cord injury that
occurred when he was struck by a DUI driver in 2009. Initially, doctors said Joey would never regain brain function, but through hard work, determination and daily care from his parents, he proved the doctors wrong. Joey was the recipient of the 2015 Comeback Award from the Western PA Trial Lawyers Assoc. for his courage and determination.
On March 27, 2008 Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec finished his shift at the Avondale Barracks in Chester County and began his drive home. Just two miles away from his station around 10:15 pm, a Chevy Tahoe crossed the center line of Rt. 41, hit the driver’s side of a pick-up truck and then hit Kenton’s vehicle head-on. Kenton was flown to Christiana Hospital in Delaware where he passed away two hours later.
The woman who was driving the Tahoe had a blood alcohol concentration level more than four times the legal limit. She was under the influence of illegal Oxycodone and was driving at 73 miles per hour in a 45 miles per hour zone when she hit Kenton. In addition, she did not have her lights on. The man driving the truck in front of Kenton said he didn’t even know that it was a vehicle that hit him. In addition, the woman had her four year old son with her in the vehicle. Kenton’s injuries were the only serious injuries from the crash.
Kenton was the type of son you wanted to carry on the family name. His heart was compassionate, his mind was quick, and he had a sense of humor that was one of a kind. Kenton loved his friends, family, God, and Country. In a few simple words, Kenton lived to serve. He was born with a rare fire, he knew there was something bigger than himself and he was willing to give his life to protect it. Although short, the time we had with Kenton was a blessing and a true gift.
We are a family that prays and plays together. A family filled with fun times, great memories, and many traditions. Although Kenton’s passion, stories, smile, and memories will live with us forever…something will always be missing. Our family will never be the same. On March 28, 2008 we were forced to start a new life without Kenton. It is a life that will always be filled with a strange sense of loneliness; it is a life that will never be as good as the one we once knew. There will be an empty place at the dinner table and in our hearts. To an outsider, the Iwaniec family will now appear as five, but we know that isn’t right, we should be six. A father won’t be able to hunt with his best friend, a mother won’t be able to cook her son his favorite meal, three sisters won’t be able to take another picture of just “the kids,” and a fiancé won’t be able to marry the man she loves. It is hard to comprehend how much emotional pain a person can stand. Just when we think we couldn’t possibly miss him any more, a new day comes and the pain created from the loss of Kenton is greater than the day before. However, faith holds us to the belief Kenton is in a better place and in that, we find comfort.
We have lost our son, our brother, our fiancé, our grandson, our nephew, our cousin, our friend and our protector. We pray the number of families stripped of a loved one as a result of drunk driving will decrease. No one should have to experience this pain.
Ken, Debby, Acacia, Michael, Sashonna, Theron, and Ashley
Miles and Charlotte were our only children. They were killed by a drunk driver that was also high on illegally used prescription drugs, driving at 100 mph on a suburban road that was slick with snow and texting. In addition to killing Miles and Charlotte, he almost killed their mother, Maggie, and caused permanent injuries to their father, Paul.
Charlotte was 16 and a junior at Downingtown West High School. She especially enjoyed French class, woodshop and jewelry making
She was a member of Washington Memorial Pipe Band with whom she played tenor drum. Charlotte enjoyed listening to folk and pirate metal bands and seeing them in concert with her family. She enjoyed learning drums, kantele (Finnish harp) and had also begun to learn the concertina. Charlotte was active in Venturing and enjoyed camping and other activities with her crew.
Miles was 19. He was a 2013 graduate of 21st Century Cyber Charter School in Downingtown, and was a second-year student at West Chester University where he was majoring in chemistry and biology. He was hoping to go on to become an optometrist.
Miles was an active member of the Washington Memorial Pipe Band with whom he played the bass drum. He enjoyed bee keeping, a hobby which he used to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, and continued his involvement in Scouting as a Venturer. For two years prior to his death he served as a volunteer EMT with Good Fellowship Ambulance in West Chester, PA.
He was driving home on his motorcycle on a busy highway, 202 North. Robert Landis turned directly in front of Liam giving him no opportunity to avoid the pickup truck. Liam hit the truck full on. He suffered serious injuries and died 2 days later in the hospital He never recovered consciousness. Liam never had a chance to avoid the truck. Landis was only 1/2 mile from home. His bac was over 2.8. This was his 7th dui arrest. He is serving time in prison now. Liam's case was fully publicized when it was in court. This was Landis's 2nd visit to the same bar that night. He was there at happy hour then returned later. He had no license, no insurance , no conscience.
Meredith was our baby, a beautiful girl who was compassionate, truly considerate of others and who strongly embraced diversity and differences in others. She was looking forward to attending Ursinus College, when she was killed by a repeat DUI driver who was drunk and high on heroin on July 8,2014, at the age of 18.
Meredith Leigh Demko
It is too late to save our children but we do hope that others will not have to go through what we have. Our reasons for change are our children and we will never forget that. If you would like us to add your reason for change, please email a photo of your loved one along with a comment and we will make it our reason as well.
Crystal and her friend Morgan Long, both 21, lost their lives to a DUI driver who had left a bar and was highly intoxicated in Hummelstown, PA.
Alayna just celebrated her 16 th birthday July 9, 2015. She was a beautiful, kind, smart young lady. She was about to begin her junior year of high school. She was looking forward to cheerleading, football games and seeing all her friends. Alayna never got to experience any of this as she was killed by a drunk driver on August 17, 2015. Alayna will always be loved and missed by her family, friends and classmates. She is forever our Angel!
Nick was a talented musician, having performed at the Olympics in London and at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Ireland. Nick lost his life on January 21st, 2016 from injuries sustained in a 4-vehicle crash on December 27, 2015, when a DUI offender with a .199 BAC and high on oxycodone struck the back of Nick's car.
Never in a million years did we expect to get the infamous "phone call" that no parent ever wants to get but our phone did ring early in the morning on November 27, 2008, Thanksgiving morning. Our son, Zac, who was only 20 years old at the time, had been involved in a crash and was at York Hospital fighting for his life. There is nothing you can do to prepare yourself for that phone call. Early on all we knew was that there was another vehicle involved and the driver of the other vehicle was not injured. Zac suffered massive, closed-head trauma and was declared brain dead three days later. The crash reconstruction took almost a year but we finally learned the truth about what happened that early morning. The other driver, a 19 year old girl, and her husband, who was 21 years old, were on their way home from an evening of drinking and partying. She was supposed to be the designated driver that night but at some point she made the decision to consume alcohol. Marijuana was also found inside her vehicle. Her BAC was .038 but because she was underage she was charged with DUI and homicide by vehicle. After a plea agreement, she was sentenced to 9-23 months. She was to serve 6 months in York County Prison and 3 months on house arrest with the balance of the 23 months on parole. She then followed up with 2 years of supervised probation. In a little under 4 years her supervision was over; her sentence was served but our family has been given a life sentence because Zac is never coming back. There is no sentence that could justify our loss but the lack of strict DUI laws in Pennsylvania is just another form of victimization that innocent families have to endure due to someone else's decision to drive impaired.
Our lives changed forever the morning we opened the door to discover the pounding noise was the York County Deputy Coroner and 2 state troopers to inform us that our daughter Angela and her partner Dee Winemiller had been killed by a drunk driver with a BAC of .159 who also had drugs in her system and was driving about 78 mph when she struck Angie’s car head on. Angie was a caring, compassionate young woman who loved helping others solve their problems, even the tough customers she encountered in her job as a customer service rep. She loved being outdoors, fishing and taking care of her critters.
Renee Michele Parkinson
Trent Allan Grove was killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Eve 2007. He had been home on leave from Dover Air Force Base only 3 days before he was killed. Two months earlier, he had returned to Dover from Al Dhafra Air Base; a military installation in the United Arab Emirates. Trent had graduated basic training with honors and received distinguished honors in Security Forces. His goal was to one day become a State Police Trooper.
Alcohol use and speeding continue as major contributors to fatal crashes. Alcohol-related crashes occurring between 8:00 PM and 4:00 AM produce the vast majority of deaths.
Drinking is a personal choice, but drinking and driving becomes a public issue that does not discriminate. Every traffic crash involves 3 elements: a driver, a roadway, and a vehicle. It has been stated nationally that 85-90% of all traffic crashes involve some sort of driver error that contributes to the crash. Therefore, as drivers, we can greatly impact traffic safety by driving smart and driving defensively.
A person’s behavior is shaped by their environment. If we are to effect behavior, we need to change the environment. Education and awareness is one of the first steps in changing the public’s attitude. Send a message that irresponsible and illegal actions will not be tolerated, and that you will not turn a blind-eye to adults or others who act as agents to buy or provide alcohol to minors. It could start with one person’s courage to have a rippling effect on the community.
I never thought in a million years that I would get that knock on the door from the county coroner. Trent lived his life responsibly and respectfully. Please drink responsibly and act as a responsible adult. You could be saving a life.
Miles Hannagan & Charlotte Hannagan
Chief Rodney P. Miller
Loganville Volunteer Fire Company
2013 Firefighter Hero Award
Cori E. Sisti
Britany was killed on July 16th, 2010 in a one car DUI crash. She and the 16 year old driver, who was intoxicated were both killed. Her tragic and senseless death is why we need stiffer penalties for those who supply alcohol to underage kids. Britany had a zest for life and her friends were her world.
After earning his Journeyman papers Rodney spent 15 years in the tool and die trade prior to establishing his own business as a general carpenter and mason. But Rodney was a firefighter through and through having joined the Loganville Volunteer Fire Company at the age of 16. As a 29 year veteran of the fire company, he perfected his leadership skills and was elected “Chief” in 2001 by his peers.
Shortly after midnight on April 27th, 2013, Rodney did what he had done hundreds of times before – as Chief of the Loganville Volunteer Fire Company, he responded to a call to close the interstate due to a crash that required transporting the driver to the hospital by helicopter. A 22 year old woman, driving on a suspended license, had lost control and struck an embankment. Later the woman admitted to consuming a 12 pack of beer and using marijuana. Rodney was in the process of setting up flares to divert traffic off the interstate, but never had the chance to get them lit. The first vehicle to approach the exit slowed down and moved to the left lane when he saw the flashing lights. But he could not have imagined what he was about to witness. The next vehicle, driven by a repeat DUI offender with a history of hit and run did not slow down. Instead he traveled around the first vehicle, and then around Rodney’s emergency vehicle where Rodney was struck and killed.
For every family who has received this phone call or knock at the door, it is devastating beyond description. Rodney left behind his high school sweetheart, best friend and wife of 22 years. He had the kind of relationship with his only brother that every sibling would envy. He was a second father to his nephew and three nieces. He was surrounded by a loving extended family, more friends than we ever realized and the respect from the local community where he served passionately. Fellow fire chiefs from neighboring stations praised him for his leadership. And as his parents, our lives are forever changed and hearts will never heal.
People who knew Rodney still speak about his infectious smile, blue eyes, enormous bear hugs and his heart of gold. He truly lived life to the fullest, but when his pager sounded, his priority was to help those in need. After his passing, Rodney continued to help others by being a tissue and cornea donor through Gift of Life.
In 2013, Rodney’s family posthumously accepted the Firefighter Hero Award presented by the Am. Red Cross, among many other honors he received. And in 2014 he was honored by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in Emmitsburg, Maryland as one of 107 firefighters nationwide who lost their lives “in the line of duty” in 2013. Rodney’s life spoke volumes and in the end rang out “well done good and faithful servant.”
His death was not an accident. It was a totally preventable crash that occurred because NOT ONE, BUT TWO individuals made a choice that evening to consume alcohol and drugs, then get behind the wheel of a vehicle. We tend to believe “it only happens to the other guy”. The reality is - each individual who gets in a vehicle IS “the other guy”! It’s up to us to educate and fight for change, so hopefully others won’t have to travel this long road of pain and heartache we’ve been on. Their voices may be silent, so we become their voice for change.
OUR DAUGHTER WAS KILLED BY A DRUNK DRIVER.
OUR SISTER WAS KILLED BY A DRUNK DRIVER.
OUR FRIEND WAS KILLED BY A DRUNK DRIVER.
NOBODY EVER THINKS that this could happen to them; that they could lose a loved one or even lose their own life because of Alcohol-Impaired driving. You don’t have to be drunk in order to cause harm to yourself or others. After drinking even just one beer, it slows down your reaction time and inhibits normal thinking and decision making. Our Julie Webster did not drink and drive the night she died, someone else drove. So, it’s important to make the decision NOT to ride with someone who has been drinking.
If you think there is even a slight chance that you might drink, make a backup plan to have a friend or family member pick you up. Carry some extra cash in case you need to call a cab. That way you can never say,
“I never thought it would happen to me".