Teen who survived drunk-driving crash: 'Just don't drive when you're drunk'

11:35 PM, Feb 28, 2012   |    comments
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One of Andre Lang's senior photos. Courtesy: Snowy River Photography.

Nineteen-year-old Andre Lang was one of teens who survived the crash.

"They never fully realize it could happen to somebody they know and it could even happen to them," Lang said.

The stuff he's heard about on the news happened to him and his three good friends early on a Sunday morning in November.

"I just went for the ride," he said. "The driver, he didn't seem at all that drunk."

Investigators say driver Tyler Lovell, 18, was drunk behind the wheel of his Toyota 4Runner when he crashed it. Seventeen-year-old Rain Walsh was in the front passenger seat. Both died in the crash.

Lang and his friend, Steve Miskimon, 19, were in the back seat. They survived.

"We got a call at 5 in the morning. It was a chaplain from St. Anthony's and he said there was an accident," Tamara Watchman, Lang's mom, said. "We knew he was sleeping over at Jerry's [Sanchez] house. I was like, 'What were they doing? What accident?'"

Lang said they were just taking their friends home.

"[Lovell] got a new CD and I just wanted to listen to it and enjoy a ride," Lang said. "Just wanted to get out of the house and go on a little adventure. It became something completely different."

Nov. 5 and 6, 2011

Lang wouldn't call it a party, just a group of friends getting together.

"We're just chatting watching stupid TV shows," he said. "Just hanging out like friends do."

When asked whose idea it was to bring alcohol, Lang says it was everybody who felt like drinking.

"[It] wasn't that difficult to get alcohol," he said.

"I never in a million years would've thought Andre would've been in the car with a drunk driver," Watchman said. "Not with what he knows, and what he's already personally experienced."

In 2009, Lang, along with his mom and dad, were hit head on by a drunk driver.

"He still hadn't learned how to drive because he didn't want to because of that accident. But if you're drinking yourself, you don't make the right decisions," Watchman said.

Lang says he just didn't think when he got in the back seat of the car. He'd also been drinking.

"[The driver] was running red lights, swerving back and forth down the street, he was speeding," Lang said. "We were screaming at him at the top of the lungs, grabbing his shoulder, telling him to stop. I remember him laughing."

Lang wasn't thinking about what happened to him just two years earlier.

"More disappointed with myself, knew I shouldn't get in the car, and I did," he said. "My ability to think clearly wasn't there, [I was] too drunk. I'm really sad that I ended up like this."

Lang's new life

"It's a really, really big change and your whole world becomes different," Lang said.

He's been at Craig Hospital since December. He's now a quadriplegic. Machines now help Lang move. A special bike in the hospital gym pushes the teen's legs to pedal.

"You know when you go numb and your arm tingles? Imagine its little ants telling you what to do, moving the legs for you," Lang described it.

When he came to Craig Hospital, his body was so broken he couldn't move at all. Doctors, procedures, therapies are helping here, Watchman says.

"He's acting like himself again; he's responding, he's laughing," she said.

It took weeks to get partial use of his left hand - small progress is a huge victory in his case. But the teen says he misses his old life.

"Just being able to move again, to be able to feel the rest of your body," he said. "It really does have a huge mental impact knowing that you may not be able to do some of your favorite things ever again."

It is one of those things most people would tell you they see or read on the news.

"Nobody should ever see their friends dead right in front of them," Lang said. "I'm not trying to tell them to not drink, just don't drive when you're drunk, because really, if you really care for the other people in the car or yourself, don't drive."

It's a decision Lang is now living with every day.

"I want people to see the consequences of drinking and driving," Watchman said. "All kids say that - 'I would never do that' - and they wind up doing it. And maybe if they see us, it will make at least some kids think before they drink and some kids think before they ever think about mixing cars and alcohol."

For more information on Lang's recovery, visit: 

http://www.andresbridge.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/andresbridge.

If you'd like to help Lang, checks can be made out to "Andre Lang Trust"
Vectra Bank
7391 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge CO 80033

Other families

9NEWS spoke with Lovell's mother, Rebecca Alexander. She emailed the following statement:

"Unfortunately, this accident was the result of many bad decisions by many people: Tyler's decision to drive drunk, the people who decided to buy alcohol for minors, the party of teenagers who chose to drink to excess that night, and Tyler's friends who decided to get into a car with a driver who they knew had been drinking for hours. It is incredibly scary and frustrating as a parent to realize how difficult it is to successfully educate our children about the extreme risks inherent in drinking and driving.

"Tyler and Rain did not learn in time; and Andre and Steven have been forever changed by the collective decisions that were made that night. It is truly astounding to realize the impact that this accident has had on our entire community. The rippling effects of those bad decisions will continue to be felt for a long time to come by many beyond the survivors and the families of the two kids that died."

Rain Walsh's family, Kasey Cline, and Matt and Lou Ernst, emailed the following statement:

"The tragedy that struck our lives on Nov. 6, 2011 is still very fresh for us. The lives of four families were changed forever. We are extremely happy and proud of Andre's recovery, he has done amazing things and we know he will continue to fight and gain strength everyday. The ongoing community support for Andre and his family has been amazing to us! We will continue to support Andre and his family through their struggles.

"We are planning on doing a memorial run over the summer in the memory of our daughter, which we will try to do on an annual basis. We can only hope that the community will be as supportive. Let us never forget what happened that day and always hold her memory in our hearts. There is not a day that goes by that we don't miss her smile, her laughter, but most importantly her! Please remember to hug your babies and love your loved ones with all your heart because you never know when you won't be able to anymore.

"We are still accepting donations for Rain's memorial fund through First Bank of Colorado. The proceeds will go to educate teen drinking and driving, the hope is that other parents will never have to bury there children!"

Miskimon is recovering at home.

9NEWS has reached out to Miskimon's family but hasn't heard back.

People suspected of buying alcohol

Three people have been charged in connection to the events that night. Julius Suarez, 26, and Tisha M. Blan, 22, have each been charged with one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a felony and one count of providing alcohol to a minor, a misdemeanor.

Eighteen-year-old Jerry Sanchez has been charged with one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a felony.

The Colorado Department of Transportation says 449 people were killed in traffic crashes in the state in 2010. They say 15 people under 21 were killed in crashes involving alcohol in 2010. In the same year, 64 drivers under 21 were involved in fatal crashes, and 12 of those drivers tested positive for drugs and/or alcohol.

As of Feb. 28, CDOT the 2011 fatal driving statistics were not available.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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