Parents of Utah teens killed in preventable accidents plead with drivers to use more caution

Posted at 6:00 PM, Nov 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-18 20:00:37-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- There were 29 teens killed on Utah roads last year, and for the Zero Fatalities campaign that's 29 deaths too many.

The parents of the teens who died say it's painful to recount the day they lost their children, but they're sharing their grief in hopes of saving other lives.

“Devastation: it's total devastation," said Kelly Wilkinson, the grandmother of a teenage boy hit and killed in Ogden. "I pray no one ever has to go through this ever."

She said: “They showed me his skateboard and I knew it was him. I was so heartbroken, I just couldn't stand it. It was awful."

Another teen death, this one on July 24, was caused by a drunk driver in Tooele.

“Katie was killed instantly; it was a head on collision,” said David Hancock, father of 15-year-old Katherine Hancock.

The driver was going 65 mph when they crossed the center line, slamming into the family’s car. Their daughter, Katie, was in the passenger seat.

“Katie didn't respond, she was slumped over the dashboard," Wilkinson said. "I looked at her and I knew at that moment she was gone."

Then in August, a simple mistake in Willard.

“That truck ended up T-boning them, killing both our son and her mother instantly,” said Robert Brown, parent of the 15-year-old crash victim.

Another crash last October was a rollover in Washington County.

“I had two officers waiting outside for me,” said Angela Child, mother of crash victim 18-year-old Angel Stringfellow.

Her daughter, not buckled up, was ejected from the car.

“There's a hole there, and there's nothing that is ever going to fill it,” Child said.

Their loved ones were taken without warning, in accidents that police believe were all preventable.

“It breaks my heart to know other people are going through what we are going through," Deanne Brown said. "It's hard. I don't want anyone else to go through that."

That's why these families are sharing their stories through a book produced by Utah’s Zero Fatalities campaign.

“It's an opportunity to share a story that's a very painful, very difficult thing: but to share it to people that need to understand driving is a privilege and it's something that can lead to tragedy,” Hancock said.

For the past seven years, these books have been given to driver's education students across Utah.

“I just hope children will start listening, and they'll pay attention,” Child said.

The books show the ripple effect bad decisions behind the wheel have on loved ones and the community.

“You think that your tears and your pain is just going to stop one day, and it doesn't,” Child said.

This is the eighth edition of these books. The people behind the Zero Fatalities campaign say since they started sharing these stories, teen deaths have dropped by 63 percent in Utah. They hope this book will help continue that downward trend.