SOUTH BUFFALO, NY- Wednesday marks the 15th anniversary of a drunk driving crash that claimed the life of Western New York teenager. To this day, her family continues to spread an important message.
Deanna Russo says some days are tougher than others and the anniversary is a very tough day. This week she revisited the scene on Seneca and Fairview in South Buffalo where she lost her little sister, Karen Kwiatkowski, 15 years ago.
"It seems like yesterday when we were at the hospital and the police investigator walked into the room and said, 'there was an accident and Karen didn't make it,'" said Russo.
Karen was just 18-years-old, barely beginning her life, was killed by a drunk driver.
Russo says her family relives their loss every time they hear of another innocent victim like Alix Rice or Bryce Buchholz.
"Immediate sadness and it takes me back to that day because I know what they're dealing with," she said.
And with Deanna's pain came a mission.
"I founded Crusade Again Impaired Driving in memory of Karen because I wanted to do something that's going to prevent this," said Russo.
Since Deanna started the organization in 2007, the CAID softball tournament has been held every summer, not just to remember Karen, but also to raise funds. Some of the funds go toward helping other victims' families. For example, they'll be flying the sister of Jocelyn Elberson back to town next month to see the sentencing of the man who struck and killed her on the Amherst Bike Path. Other funds raised go toward spreading the message.
"We're going to be at Dyngus Day coming up just getting the word out and promoting awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving," said Russo.
Reminding people that crashes like the one that took her sister 15 years ago, are preventable.
"Make a choice and plan in advance. These crashes aren't accidents. It's a choice to get out there and drink and drive."