Spartanburg Co. mom raises awareness after losing son to drunk driver

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SPARTANBURG CO., S.C. (WSPA) – As the holidays roll around, it’s a good time to remind everyone about the dangers of drinking and driving.

7 News spoke with a family who’s trying to ease the pain of losing their son by raising awareness.

“I’ve often wondered if he was afraid or if he knew he was going to die,” Suzie Thomas said.

On September 26, 2001, Suzie Thomas’s life changed forever.

“They told me he was killed instantly. And it might sound awful, but I hope so,” she said.

She and her two sons were out walking when a driver under the influence of drugs and alcohol hit her youngest son, Gregory. He was only 14 years old.

Now, 18 years later, the holidays are still very hard for Thomas’s family.

“He loved Christmas more than anything in this world,” Suzie Thomas said. “We had to put a manger in our yard every year, just for him.”

According to the Spartanburg County Coroner, so far this year, 61 people in Spartanburg County have died in car accidents.

“In past years, in 2017, we only had 45 at this time of the year. And in 2016, we only had 50,” Rusty Clevenger said.

And 7th Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette told 7 News there’s been an uptick in felony DUIs and reckless homicides.

“This past year alone, we had 20 felony DUIs with great bodily injury, 9 with death, 7 with reckless homicide. That’s way too many,” he said.

Suzie Thomas told 7 News she doesn’t want anyone else to go through what she and her family did.

“We go to the cemetery and put flowers on his grave, and that’s all we can do for him for Christmas,” she said.

That’s why she’s now asking people to be responsible, saying Christmas and New Years parties that involve alcohol can still happen; she’s just asking that you plan ahead. And law enforcement is asking the same thing.

“We have Uber, we have the cab companies, we have all these other ways to get you home,” Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said.

Suzie Thomas told 7 News she believes what happened to her son can be prevented if we all do our part.

“My son could not have died any more violently. A car is a weapon,” she said.

The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office, and South Carolina Highway Patrol are asking everyone to report it if you suspect someone is driving while distracted or impaired.

Solicitor Barnette also asks everyone to reach out to your legislators and ask for stricter DUI laws.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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