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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crash victims' friends, supporters rally at mall

Jim Lynch / The Detroit News

ROSEVILLE -- More than 100 people, from students in mourning to adults showing support, filled a corner of the Macomb Mall parking lot this afternoon during a rally in remembrance of four teens killed Monday night.

Devon Spurlock, 19; Erica Haudek, 15; Stephanie Currie, 16; and Jordan Michalak, 16, all students at Lake Shore High School, were killed after a drunk driver plowed into their car at Gratiot and Masonic in front of Macomb Mall.

Ana Noriega, Stephanie Currie's cousin, stood on the side of Gratiot, just a few yards from where the accident took place, holding a wreath with the words "Loving Daughter" on it and waving a Stop Drinking and Driving sign.

Her frustration over the choices made by the driver was evident.

"(The driver) could have called a cab," Noriega said. "She could have walked home. If she did, we'd have had our loved ones today."

Frances Patricia Dingle, 47, was arraigned today on four counts of second-degree murder and four counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. She is being held on a $1 million cash bond.

In 2006, a drunk driver killed Macomb Township resident Joe Hagan's sister on I-75 near Saginaw. He said the 19-year-old driver had a blood alcohol level of .13, and after more than two years in the courts, the driver wound up receiving five years probation.

The apparent similarities between the two accidents had Hagen hoping for a different outcome this time.

"I really hope they prosecute this lady," he said. "As sad as it is, she needs to pay for the consequences she's caused."

Ashly Lowry, 18, went to Lake Shore for two years and knew Devon Spurlock, the oldest of the victims.

"He was very nice -- always cool," she said. "When he walked down the hall, everybody knew him."

Monday's accident spurred Lowry to begin a Teens Against Drunk Driving campaign. She and friends handed out fliers and posters during the rally. More than 50 people lined the west side of Gratiot Avenue waving signs asking motorists to honk in support of the group. And the motorists didn't disappoint.

"I'm sick of people drinking and driving and killing other people," Lowry said. These kids didn't get to say goodbye to their families. They didn't get to grow up and get married. They didn't get to have kids of their own -- just because some person decided to drink and drive."

Members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving also participated in the rally.

"It's a shame these four young innocent lives are changed forever and their families are without them," Richard Rondeau, executive director of MADD Southeast Michigan, said before the vigil. "It's beyond the pale that people are still irresponsible and they do not make plans when their plans involve alcohol."

Rondeau said with today's technologies, specifically cell phones and designated driver services, there's no excuse for people to get behind the wheel drunk.

"Why is this still happening? That is the $64,000 question," Rondeau said. "We have been around for 29 years and the message hasn't changed. They have so many other options than getting behind the wheel impaired."

You can reach Jim Lynch at (586) 468-0520 or jlynch@detnews.com.

 
 
 
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