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Drunken driving, senseless tragedies: Editorial

Posted 10/17/18

We don’t want to imagine the horror that played out on Interstate 83 on Friday night.

Three people are dead because of one man’s total disregard for others, if the charges against Jack …

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Drunken driving, senseless tragedies: Editorial

Posted

We don’t want to imagine the horror that played out on Interstate 83 on Friday night.

Three people are dead because of one man’s total disregard for others, if the charges against Jack Edward Satterfield III are proven to be true.

We can’t express our grief in strong enough words for the family of Zachary Lybrand, 24, and his daughter, 16-month-old Elliana. They died Friday when Satterfield, according to police, rammed his Volvo tractor-trailer into the back of several cars that were slowed or stopped near the Union Deposit Road exit.

What ensued was a fiery death trap that also took the life of Messiah College senior Ethan Van Bochoven, 22, of Pompton Plains, New Jersey, who was in another car that was struck.

In her Facebook post honoring her family, Lybrand’s wife, Jessica, said that the fire left little of her loved ones behind. It’s hard to think about.

Colonial Park Fire Company, which responded to the crash, called it on its Facebook page “one of the most significant and deadly over the last 20 years or longer” to which it had responded.

“We will probably never forget this call in our entire lives,” Fire Company Assistant Chief Che Kerestes told PennLive. “I think that’s going to go down as the worst accident that has ever occurred at one time on Interstate 83.”

What a waste.

Satterfield, according to arrest reports, told State Police he drank five double-shot margaritas and two or three beers earlier Friday evening at a Mexican restaurant in New Jersey. He allegedly did not have a valid commercial driver’s license. He fled the scene but was close enough to watch what was going on. Court documents said that when police approached the truck at the crash scene, a strong odor of alcohol was detected.

If these charges are proven to be true, he should never spend a day outside of prison again.

Awareness of drunken driving has been driven home to the public for several decades, yet we still have senseless crashes such as these. They will never go away, unfortunately, but we can work harder to prevent them.

It’s natural to think of your own loved ones when you read about tragedies such as this, and about how random life can be. What if the Lybrands had been two minutes ahead of schedule and were farther up I-83, missing the accident completely? They would be alive but someone else might be dead.

Think about the Colonial Park Fire Company and other first responders to the scene. Yes, they are trained for this. But they are still human beings. The sights, sounds and smells won’t fade away easily.

Think about the survivors in the multiple other cars involved, and what they saw. What is their mental state after narrowly avoiding being killed?

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, alcohol-related fatalities account for more than 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state. There were 52,636 DUI arrests last year in Pennsylvania, a decrease from the 54,121 arrests made in 2013. But that is still a staggering amount.

We are entering the season of celebration during which having a few drinks is common. Halloween parties. Christmas parties. New Year’s Eve parties.

Do us all a favor. Don’t drink and drive. Please.

Look at the crash photo on page A5 of this edition. Read the words of Jessica Lybrand in their entirety on her Facebook page. See the pictures of Zachary and Elliana on their GoFundMe page. Imagine if her husband and young daughter were your relatives.

You might not get into a crash if you drive drunk. Even if you do, you might not kill anyone. But is it worth it? Of course not.

And to those of you whose decision-making is not impaired, don’t forget the very successful public service campaign slogan: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.” It’s simple and accurate. If your friends can’t make good decisions, step in.

Everyone can do their part to save a life.

May God bless everyone affected by this tragedy.