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Officers dedicate DUI crackdown to Elams
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Giving a face to the dangers of drunk driving, law enforcement officials have dedicated their increased New Year’s enforcement to the memory of couple killed by a drunk driver.
“They were the victims of a senseless tragedy,” said Clint Shrum of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office in dedicating the operation in memory of Jesse and Vada Elam. “Since someone decided to be selfish, uncaring and downright senseless, we are here today.”
The Elams, both 82 at the time, were killed July 7, 2008 when they were hit in the main intersection in Morrison by a drunk driver while returning from a ball game. The driver, Zachariah Holden, 24, of Pulaski was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the wreck in which he did not even know what county he was in given the height of his intoxication.
“That’s why we put a face on this,” said McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton in announcing the crackdown which is currently under way and will continue through New Year’s Day. “This could happen to anyone.”
The stepped up enforcement in Coffee, Warren and White counties will include a no-refusal program where suspected drunk drivers will be required to undergo blood-alcohol tests whether they consent or not.
“We will be doubling the number of officers on the road,” said McMinnville Police Lt. Mark Mara, noting the saturation patrols are routinely held during all special occasions where drinking is high, even during Super Bowl Sunday.
The head of the local contingent of the highway patrol, Sgt. Billy Prater, pointed to the 14 people who have died on Warren County roads this year, nine of which came as result of impaired drivers.
“That’s 14 too many,” Prater said. “If you’re going to drink and drive then please get a designated driver.”
In recalling the Elams, for whom the initiative is named, District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis pointed out the couple had saved the life of a man who had fallen in the river the same day they were killed by the drunk driver.
“They had saved a life that day,” Zavogiannis said. “Then their own lives were tragically taken from them.”
Sheriff Jackie Matheny, speaking with several of the Elam relatives at the press conference which was held at Morrison Fire Hall near the site of the fatal wreck, said this initiative honors their memory.
“They will live on forever through your lives,” Matheny said to the family.