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Bad decisions ended five lives in car crash near La Crosse

Not far from La Crosse, high school students recently stood and stared at the remains of a van mangled in an auto accident three years ago. The accident was caused by some very poor decisions, a survivor of the crash told the students.

One of the students examining the van had herself been in a car accident just a couple days earlier; a crash caused by a texting driver who ran a stop sign.

"No one realizes how much one decision can change someone's life," the eleventh grader said.

We all make choices in life, the survivor of that Memorial Day crash about 60 miles west of La Crosse told Austin, Minnesota, told the high school students.

The poor decisions made by a 25-year-old man who decided to drink and drive led to the deaths of five of her loved ones, the woman told the students.

The man fell asleep while driving east on a highway, slamming his vehicle into one the woman was in. His blood alcohol level was tested after the crash at 0.18 percent, more than twice the 0.08 percent that is grounds for a drunk driving arrest.

"We all have choices," the woman told the assembled students. "We have so many choices when we get behind the wheel."

That man's choice to drink and drive took the lives of the woman's daughter, 19, her fiancé, 45, a family friend, 23, her two-year-old grandson and her five-week-old son.

The woman showed the students photos of her family and talked about each one, including the story of how her grandson "fought for his life" for six days before he died as a result of injuries sustained in the wreck.

The woman has spoken to high school audiences in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota, she said. She wants to try to make sure the tragedy she's endured "does not happen to anyone else."

Source: Austin Post-Bulletin, "Survivor of 2009 Memorial Day crash speaks to Austin students," Heather Rule, May 4, 2012

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