Mother remembers son killed by a drunk driver

SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) – Police in southern Rhode Island arrested more than one dozen intoxicated drivers the day before Thanksgiving, something families of victims killed by drunk drivers are thankful for.

Eyewitness News spoke with a mother who says holidays have never been the same since she lost her 19-year-old son in a drunken driving crash.

Mary Jean Erler, the victim’s mother says, “There’s always that part of you that will always miss him. It’s been 11 years, 11 Thanksgivings Chuckie hasn’t been here.”

Chuckie was killed in Foster two days before Christmas 2003 when a drunk driver crossed the center line and slammed head-on into his car. The driver, Ryan Salvadore was sentenced to serve four years in prison.

Erler remembers her son’s personality, saying “Chuckie was the life of the party, smile on his face all the time. He was just a lot of fun.”

Preventing tragedies like these is the goal of the Southern Rhode Island DUI Task Force. The day before Thanksgiving, they made 14 DUI arrests from Cranston to Westerly.

Det. Ronald Barrington of the North Kingstown Police Department says, “A lot of people are coming into town, they’re going to celebrate and reminisce with old friends, and unfortunately, they make bad decisions and they drive intoxicated. There’s more people killed in drunken driving accidents than killed in murders.”

While Erler applauds the task force’s efforts, she says there are many drunk drivers out there who get away with it. “I wish on this Thanksgiving that people think about what they’re thankful for, and imagine if that was taken away from you, and maybe that’ll be enough to get people to think, make good decisions and not get drunk … and there won’t be another family that has to go through this.

The CDC says every day, almost 30 people in the U.S. die in drunken driving crashes.

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