Clinton Co. Mom Shares Story, Warns of Drinking & Driving - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Clinton Co. Mom Shares Story, Warns of Drinking & Driving

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      We hear a lot about underage drinking this time of year, with prom and end of school parties. And one Clinton County mom wants to drive home just how dangerous it is. Kelly Sparks is sharing the story of her son, a typical high school student who showed cattle and played sports until a devastating car crash. She says one night of fun and alcohol led to one bad decision. 
    
    "When July 23rd rolls around, it's a very difficult day." On that day back in 2011, Sparks says her life, and her family's life, changed forever. "Our phone call came at 4:18 in the morning on  July 23rd, the phone call all parents hope and pray they will never receive." Her 19-year old son had been in a car accident. Justin was in the hospital. "He was banged up pretty good, but we were fairly confident he would recover."
     
    Until, she says, the next phone call 90 minutes later, telling her two passengers were killed. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had to sit down before I fell to the floor. It couldn't be true. So many things rushing through my mind. What were we going to do? Why is this happening? Justin was a good kid. Where had he been? Who had he been with? What were they doing?"
     
    At the time, no one knew for sure.  Justin Sparks was behind the wheel when his car ran into a ditch and hit a tree. He and his passengers were ejected. 19-year-old Jed Rogis and 18-year-old Kristin Hanrahan were pronounced dead at the scene. "Justin will tell you he was devastated," Sparks says. "He wanted to switch places with Jed and Kristin." He later pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and driving drunk. "He wanted to be able to take the pain away from their families."
     
    Now, his mother says, her family wants to make sure no one else has to live with that kind of pain. "No one planned for this to happen, but we have to learn from it and make something good come from it," she says. That's why she's shares this story, Wednesday night talking to about three dozen people in Camanche, including an 18-year old going to prom this weekend. And Drake Sachsenmaier says he gets it. "I don't want to risk my life, or my friend's life, or anybody's life just to drink and drive." That's a message Kelly Sparks says she'll continue to drive home. "If it happened to them, it can happen to you. Don't think it can't."
     
    Justin Sparks was sentenced to 60 days in jail and five years supervised probation. He lost his license and, his mother says, owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. She says he typically speaks with her, but is at college right now.
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