‘This has destroyed all of our lives’: Spokane family pleads with others to not drink and drive

SPOKANE, Wash. – For those of you planning to celebrate the New Year by drinking, make sure to designate someone to drive you home. Every year people lose a loved one because of drunk driving.

“The loss that has happened here, it will be forever. This has destroyed all of our lives, it has destroyed my future,” Ray McNamara said.

McNamara lost his wife in August.

He, his wife, Lauri, and their daughter, were enjoying the lake that warm day. It ended up in tragedy.

Lauri drove herself to the lake that day to meet her family. On the way home, Ray and his daughter were driving in front of her.

“All of a sudden, we both see the flash of the explosion from the crash in our rear view mirrors,” he said.

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Lauri had been hit by a drunk driver. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said the 23-year-old suspect blew a .207 blood-alcohol content level.

“We pulled over, I ran back, my daughter called 911. Can you imagine? You’ve got to call 911 for your own mom?” McNamara remembered.

When the cars collided, it burst into flames. McNamara saw his wife burned right after that crash. He told 4 News Now he moved her away from the fire right after  it happened. He and another witness poured water on her until the paramedics arrived.

His wife was taken to the hospital, but ended up not making it. Her lungs had also been burned, McNamara told 4 News Now.

He lost the love of his life that day. The two had been married for 30 years, knowing her since they were young.

“Wonderful, wonderful person and now she’s gone. She’s been taken away, all because one individual made a conscious decision to get behind the wheel after drinking all day long,” McNamara said.

His 19-year-old daughter lost her mom, now having to help her navigate adulthood all on his own.

The two went through the holidays with an empty seat at the table, feeling the loss of what happened months ago. This isn’t the only time the family has been struck by tragedy because of a drunk driver. McNamara’s family had felt that loss from several other extended family members.

On New Year’s Eve, and every other day after that, McNamara is pleading with people to make the right decision and be responsible.

“Please, make the decision to call a cab, call a friend, Uber, Lyft. Whatever it is to come get you anytime you’ve been out drinking and driving,” he said.

Washington State Patrol and Spokane Police will have more troopers and officers on the roadways New Year’s Eve and the rest of the holiday weekend to try and help prevent situations like McNamara’s.

“The worst job that a state trooper has to do, and most of us have had to do it, unfortunately more than once, is go to someone’s house and tell them that their loved one’s not going to make it home. We don’t want to do that,” said Trooper Jeff Sevigney, with WSP.

WSP has made fewer arrests for DUI’s in 2020 compared to years past.

From January 1 to December 15, 2020, 960 arrested have been made for DUI’s.

In the same time frame in 2019, 1,322 people were arrested for driving under the influence.

This decrease in DUI arrests in partly because of the pandemic. Bars and restaurants have periodically been closed because of statewide shutdowns.

Though that was the case, WSP says it’s arrested someone at least once every night for a DUI.

“That doesn’t mean it’s not occurring and everyday we’re arresting folks for impaired driving. The problem still exists,” Sevigney said.

If you’re out any time and suspect someone is driving drunk, WSP says to call 911 with a license plate and a vehicle description.

That way, they could possibly help prevent another death due to drinking and driving.

“This destroys more than one person’s life. It’s not that she was killed, that’s not the only thing that happened. It’s the after effect of that death that affects many, many people,” McNamara said.