|© Mark Hammon, January 1992: His friend, 14 year old DUI victim Mark Engle, enters the pearly gates|
On the last day of 1991 in Island County, Washington, around 4:30 p.m., a woman felt her Ford F-150 pickup truck strike something when it veered onto the shoulder of a county road as she drove home from a neighborhood store.
But the driver, a petite 49-year-old grandmother who had been sipping wine1 earlier that afternoon, thought her truck had hit just a rock. A sober, clear-headed person would have stopped to assess any damage to the vehicle that a rock might have caused. But this driver did not stop.
Mark Engle (14), Ashley Sweeney (15), Phil Shinner (19), and Clinton Sweeney (11) had been walking diagonally two by two on the shoulder of the county road when they were struck from behind.
Ashley flew onto Phil when she was struck, knocking him down. Then, Mark was struck and sent soaring, first onto a mailbox which was knocked off its post and then face down onto the embankment several yards ahead.
The eleven-year-old boy watched in horror as first his sister and then his friend were struck. His sister Ashley regained consciousness. His friend Mark did not even though attempts at resuscitation were made both by Phil and the paramedics.
The drivers husband returned her to the scene of the crash a couple hours later when he saw the huge dents on the truck.
Because the driver had never been arrested before for drunken driving, her offense was plea-bargained down to Hit And Run Injury Accident, and she received a sentence of six months in the county jail (although she was out in 5½ months because of good behavior).
The short jail sentence felt like a slap in the face to Marks and Ashleys family and friends. Mark himself had received a life sentence away from his family and friends. And Ashley, an athlete, had lost full mobility of one arm. The victims families saw the sentence as a slap on the wrist to the first-time offender.
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