Tears ran down faces in the audience as guest speaker Erica Nelson described the tragic accident in February 2016 that left her without a husband and her four children without a father.
Chris Nelson was driving home from work on the 134 eastbound freeway when he was hit by a 24-year-old drunk driver who fled the scene.
With the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, senior communications major and Phi Delta Theta member James Cockrell hosted a driving under the influence awareness night Monday in the Campus Center Ballroom.
“Inspiration behind this event was unfortunately eight months ago my uncle (Chris Nelson) was tragically killed in a drunk driving accident,” Cockrell said. “It still doesn’t feel real having someone so close to you and the next day they’re gone.”
Guest speakers Erica Nelson, La Verne Police Department Corporal Chris Dransfeldt, University campus safety officer Jerry Espinoza and Hawthorne Police Department officer and advisor for Phi Delta Theta Fraternity Alan Weinreb spoke to an audience of more than 60 students on the dangers and realities of driving under the influence.
“It’s something that can happen to you and your life will forever change,” Dransfeldt said. “In a split moment of a poor decision you made your life will change.”
Nelson began the night with the story of losing her husband to a drunk driver. She spoke of the heartbreaking moment she found out from a coroner investigator and how she broke the news to her children.
“I feel so sorry for my kids that they have to grow up without their dad,” Nelson said. “Our three daughters won’t have their dad walk them down the aisle on their wedding day and my son won’t have his dad teach him how to play baseball.”
Espinoza spoke on his experience as a member of the California Highway Patrol. He told a story of a drunk driving accident that he arrived on the scene of after only one year of experience. Espinoza said the car went into the center median leaving fatalities.
Weinreb spoke about young adults having a “god complex” in which nothing bad can happen to them. He later went on to talk about alternatives of driving drunk such as using the car service Uber.
“Between the three of us collectively I’m sure we have hundreds of arrests, been to hundreds of checkpoints and seen the scenes that we only wish we could take back,” Weinreb said.
Dradsfeldt told a story about working with the Claremont Police Department where he arrived on the scene of a drunk driving accident involving college students. He went on to talking about pulling two dead bodies off of the trapped passengers in the car that screamed for help.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, 27 people are killed each day as a result of drunk driving. In 2014 the highest fatal drunk driving accidents were caused by 21- to 24-year-olds and on average two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving accident in their lifetime.
“Being a member of the Greek community and seeing someone go through this kind of situation hurts and it does hit home,” junior educational studies major Danielle Viste said.
Cockrell finished the night by telling the audience about drunk driving alternatives such as using Uber, Lyft, having a designated driver, or planning out your night and being accountable.
“It was very helpful and eye opening especially when there were professional stories and personal stories; it kind of gave perspective of the two worlds,” junior kinesiology major and Phi Delta Theta member Harvard Kang said.
Megan Sears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.