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Terrible twists in a Wisconsin tragedy

A couple of years ago, a charitable organization donated a handicap-accessible van to a man described in a press release as "recently paralyzed when a drunk driver hit his motorcycle."

Sounds like a thoughtful gift for a car accident victim of a drunken driver. As it turns out, there's more to the gift and the story.

According to the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, the man was indeed paralyzed in an accident and a woman who was riding on his motorcycle suffered even more: she was killed.

The motorcyclist was himself drunk at the time of the crash. He pleaded no contest to a drunk driving charge.

According to columnist Mike Nichols, prosecutors had initially charged with him with vehicular homicide in the case, but dropped the accusation after deciding it would be difficult to prove he caused the fatal crash at four in the morning.

The accident was about 200 miles east of La Crosse, in Howard, Wisconsin.

The district attorney said at the time that the motorcyclist had constructed a prison for himself out of his quadriplegic body.

Yet the 20-year-old woman -- who was found to have been sober at the time of the crash -- paid the ultimate price. The motorcyclist, on the other hand, paid a $718 fine and lost his driver's license for seven months.

But he got his driving privileges back just about the time the charitable organization gave him the van.

There's one last twist in the story: the man was arrested earlier this year and charged with drunken driving. Again.

This time he's getting 30 days in jail and he'll lose his license for 14 months. But afterwards he'll be able to get back into his van and drive all he likes.

A friend of the woman who died on the back on the man's motorcycle said his drunken driving conviction shows "total disrespect" for her friend. And she worries that he might one day get behind the wheel while impaired and cause an accident that could leave someone paralyzed or dead.

It's terrible that an act of kindness -- a charitable donation -- can be turned into a potential weapon.

Let's hope this story has had its last tragic twist.

Source: Wisconsin Rapids Tribune: "Mike Nichols column: Drunken driver uses donated van" by Mike Nichols: July 22, 2011

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