COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — One DUI crash survivor and two family members of a man who was killed in a DUI crash spoke with the public at an event held by the North Idaho DUI Task Force in Coeur d'Alene on Thursday.
The group kicked off emphasis patrols for the "100 deadliest days of summer" for drivers.
Memorial Day marks the start of what is known as the “100 Deadliest Days,” which is statistically the most dangerous time on the roads. Authorities say that first responders see a marked increase in serious crashes.
Patricia Allen, the mother of Ryan Allen, who was killed in March at the age of 38 after being ejected from a car he was riding in when it was struck by a drunk driver near Hayden, spoke about how drunk drivers changed her son's life on two separate occasions.
"[Drinking and driving] is a very serious issue, one that took our son's life," she said. "It started at 11, with a driver running over him, who was impaired ... which put him in a wheelchair until he passed away."
Police said that Cory Kreager, a 35-year-old man from Priest River, Idaho, was traveling eastbound on Boekel Road and failed to stop at a stop sign, hitting the driver's side of a van driven by 78-year-old Vern Allen of Cocolalla.
Allen and several other passengers were seriously injured in the crash, police said.
Ryan Allen was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.
Allen said she was thankful that Ryan still had cognizant skills after being diagnosed with a brain injury, and that the crash that put him in a wheelchair inspired him to teach and help others.
His wanting to help others is what led to Ryan being named an honorary police officer in Utah after he gave out more than 2,000 bicycle helmets to children, Allen said.
"He became very excited about teaching [and] sharing and he loved everyone," Allen said.
Bret Allen, one of Ryan's six brothers, also spoke briefly at the conference. Bret spoke about seeing his brother in a wheelchair.
"My most difficult part of my life was watching my brother be in a wheelchair, or the amount of time that he spent in a wheelchair," Bret Allen said.
He also called on the community to come together to stop drunk drivers.
"Seeing you show up today has inspired me to fight even harder to making sure that we can try to come together as a community, because that's where power come's from: When we all stand together," he said.
Patricia also echoed these sentiments and thanked law enforcement officers for putting an emphasis on DUI patrols.
"Please make this the biggest push that's ever taken place from here on," Patricia said. "That a person that chooses to get in a vehicle and drive is punished to the fullest extent of the law that is allowed. The rest of us want to enjoy our summers. I wanted to enjoy my summer with my son Ryan, and that's been taken away from me."
Ellen Brown and her daughter Joelle Tanguay also attended the conference. They were struck by Ian Bolstad, who was driving under the influence on July 30, 2018. Tanguay suffered a paralyzed vocal cord in the crash and did not speak.
"It was a beautiful day. We were having a mother-daughter weekend," Brown said. "We didn't see him coming ... me and Joelle don't remember anything from the crash."
She thanks the community for their "phenomenal" support, as well as giving thanks to the criminal justice system. She also stressed that it is a choice to drive under the influence.
"It's not something that somebody couldn't have avoided," Brown said.
Brown was flown to Sacred Heart Medical Center with a severe leg injury that required two surgeries. Tanguay, suffered a head and spinal injury during the crash.
Bolstad initially would only give troopers his first name, court documents said. He then told officials he had stopped to help with a crash and his “red truck” was stolen, but then he changed his story, court documents explained.
According to court documents, he later told a trooper he was using meth and thought somebody was chasing him.
Bolstad later plead guilty to aggravated driving under the influence on Jan. 7. In April, a judge sentenced him to a nine years in prison.
A member of the task force said that the first operation they did this year was over St. Patrick's Day, and resulted in 381 traffic stops, 28 drunk driving arrests and 18 drug arrests.
The ISP arrested 131 drunk drivers in District 1, which makes up North Idaho, 2017, the task force member said. The next year, which was the first year for the task force, that number went up to 206.