Mother of Teen Killed by Drunk Driver Recounts Day at MADD Campaign Kickoff

Colleen Sheehey of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Connecticut State Police and DOT officials, warned people of the tragic potential of consuming alcohol Friday at the I-91 rest stop in Middletown.

Colleen Sheehey, whose son Dustin was killed in 2004 by a drunken driver, speaks at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving press conference in Middletown. (Credit: Cassandra Day)
Colleen Sheehey, whose son Dustin was killed in 2004 by a drunken driver, speaks at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving press conference in Middletown. (Credit: Cassandra Day)

By Patch Local Editor Cassandra Day.

The mother whose son was killed in 2004 while a passenger in a car driven by a drunken driver that crashed into the Housatonic River in Kent implored people Friday never to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol.

"There is nothing, nothing that we can do to bring Dustin back," said Colleen Sheehey, who now sits on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving National Board of Directors. "My ask is a very simple one — prevent drunk driving crashes; don't drink and drive, and please don't let the memory of the holidays end up being a horrible crash or death that changes your lives forever and ever."

Dustin Church of Madison, 18, died, she said at a MADD press conference in Middletown, in a car traveling 70 miles per hour in 35 mile per hour zone. "It ricocheted off signs, trees, and embankments and then eventually went airborne, turned upside down and plunged into the Housatonic River."

His mother painfully recalled the horrific events that marked the last 10 minutes of her son's life after which he was not injured in the crash but, "his lungs filled with the murky water and he drowned."

The driver, who was drunk and had taken drugs, and passenger survived the crash, Sheehey said, "but they were too drunk to go down and try to save him," she said. Dustin died just shy of his 19th birthday. He would be 28 today.

"I'm proud to say my son was not drunk, but he made a terrible decision," Sheehey said, stressing the importance of designated drivers.

She was joined by Dustin's father Skip Church, Lt. Paul Vance, Thomas Maziarz of the Department of Transportation, state Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden, Connecticut Police Chief’s Association Chief Gary MacNamara and State’s Attorney Peter McShane at the Middletown rest area off Interstate 91.

Church spoke about the importance of ignition interlock devices which requires drivers convicted of DUI take a breathalyzer test every time they get behind the wheel to measure their blood alcohol content.

"There is nothing worse for family member to see a person standing at their front door, wearing a uniform similar to this," Vance said, "knocking on their door and delivering a tragic message. That is reality. That is what drunk drivers do to the population in our state."

Bartolomeo told those gathered about the Tatiana and Lorenzo Cruz of Meriden who were killed last month while the car they were in was stopped at a red light and rear ended by a Yukon Denali driven by Israel Gonzalez.

"It has absolutely shaken our community to the core," Bartolomeo said. "A 5-year-old and an 8-year-old. There's absolutely nothing that they could have done wrong in their shor lives but a 29-year-old allegedly killed them because he was drunk driving."

MADD Connecticut also released 2012 Connecticut DUI Fatalities and reminded adults to plan ahead for a designated non-drinking driver if they’re planning to drink alcohol during the holiday season.

MADD’s Tie One On For Safety campaign urges drivers to display a red ribbon on their cars as a reminder to plan ahead for a designated non-drinking driver, and in support of law enforcement crackdown efforts.

According to MADD, the time period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s includes some of the most dangerous days for drunk driving deaths. Nationally in 2011, nearly 10,000 people were killed and another 315,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes throughout the year.

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