Three Girl Scouts — two age 10, one age 9, all three in fourth grade — killed in a traffic accident, along with the mother of one of the girls.
News so sad, so tragic, that if feels as though it physically hurts your heart.
The Nov. 3 news from Lake Hallie, Wis., near Chippewa Falls, of the four deaths — caused when a pickup truck went off the road near a highway overpass and struck the four as they were collecting litter as part of the Adopt-a-Highway program — was senseless.
It was rendered even more senseless, as if that were possible, by the news that the driver was allegedly impaired. Driving while high, in other words.
The driver and passenger of the pickup truck were inhaling Dustoff, a computer keyboard cleaner they “huffed” to get high, as they drove, and as the truck veered across the centerline they each took the wheel before the crash, according to formal charges filed Nov. 7, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
The allegations and the outcome — an impaired driver striking and killing a pedestrian — have an all-too-familiar ring in Racine County.
It’s been a little more than three years since Aug. 9, 2015, when another driver, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, crossed two lanes of traffic and struck Sara Dresen, 13, killing her as she walked along the side of Middle Road near her Caledonia home.
That driver was sentenced, on Feb. 17, 2017, to a total of 20 years in prison: Five years in prison for the negligent homicide charge and 15 years in prison for the homicide by vehicle with use of a controlled substance, the maximum for the crimes.
“The gravity of this offense is staggering,” Racine County Circuit Judge Emily Mueller said on the day of the sentencing.
Staggering is a good word to describe both the death of Sara Dresen in 2015 and the deaths of Jayna S. Kelley, 9; Autumn A. Helgeson, 10; Haylee J. Hickle, 10; and Haylee’s mother, Sara Jo Schneider, 32, on Nov. 3 in Lake Hallie.
“It’s not really fair,” said 16-year-old Jorie Reitan, whose mother babysat Haylee and her brother, Jasper. They were all too young, Reitan said, her eyes filling with tears. “They don’t get the chance to do the things that they wanted to grow up to do.”
No, they don’t.
Do you want to be the person that steals the lives of children?
Of course not. No one does. No one starts up a vehicle intending to hurt anyone.
But people who have been drinking, or getting high, hurt others when they get behind the wheel.
Please, let us not have any more stories like that of Jayna Kelley, of Autumn Helgeson, of Haylee Hickle, of Sara Jo Schneider.
No more stories like that of Sara Dresen.
If you’re drunk or high — even if you’re “just a little buzzed” or “just a little high” — please leave your keys in your pocket.
Call a cab. Call a ride-sharing service. Call a friend. Or stay where you are.
Don’t turn yourself into the central figure in someone else’s death.