Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller • email@example.com
Editor's Note: This is part of a three part series examining the impact of alcohol use on young lives.
Life changed on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, for Alan and Ida Abel.
It was then that the rural Delaware County residents stopped using a calendar to mark off the days of their lives.
Now a single number dominates each day — 28.
According to statistics provided by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an average of 28 people are killed each day in accidents caused by alcohol.
It’s a sobering statistic — of which the Abels have first-hand knowledge.
Brandon, their 21-year-old son, died as a result of injuries he received in a one-vehicle accident, which took place north of Grove on East 270 Road, near the Apache Springs subdivision, on Wednesday, Aug. 19.
His passenger, 19-year-old Dakota M. Fullerton, Eucha, also sustained injuries in the accident. He was taken by Mercy Air Ambulance to Freeman West Hospital in Joplin, Missouri, where he was admitted in good condition with trunk internal and external, arm and leg injuries. He has since been released.
It was an accident fueled in part by alcohol and speed, according to reports issued by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Medical examiner's reports indicate Brandon Abel had a blood alcohol content of .16 – twice the legal limit.
“My son was killed by a drunk driver – himself,” Alan said.
* * *
Since Aug. 19, Alan has discovered a new mission in life.
“I want to turn his tragedy into someone’s triumph,” Alan said. “I want one person to make a change, then reach the second person, then a third [and keep on multiplying].”
His wife, Ida, agreed.
“I don’t want somebody else going through life like this today,” Ida said. “I don’t want someone else to lose a loved one. [We want to] stop this from happening to another person.”
The former director of the Grove Emergency Medical Services, Alan wants people to hear about the dangers associated with driving under the influence of alcohol.
He wants people to see images from his son’s accident, even though it causes pain.
The Abels hope the shocking the images of their son's vehicle will help convince people of all ages about the dangers of driving while intoxicated.
They say speaking out not only gives them a way to channel their grief, but it fuels what has become their ultimate goal.
“It will be worth it, if I can turn his tragedy into triumph,” Alan said. “If one person, young or old, takes time to stop and think before they get behind a wheel, and instead call a loved one [it will be worth it.]
“If I could have stopped [Brandon] I would have. I just want to hug him, and tell him that I love him.”
* * *
|Brandon Able with his son, Braden, 1. |
Photo courtesy Alan Abel
He was also a young man learning to become a husband to Stacey (Summerfield) and father to son, Braden, 1, and stepsons Ryder, 3, and Roman, 4.
“He loved his boys,” Ida said. “He had lots of plans for those boys – and now he won’t be able to follow through with them. “
Alan remembers a son who cared for others, someone with a heart of gold.
“He would do anything, for anybody,” Alan said. “He had a good heart. Our solace is that while we look at the outward appearance, God looks at the content of our heart.
“My boy wasn’t just a drunk driver. He was somebody who loved and who was loved.”
* * *
Age played a role in the choices Brandon made.
“He was young,” Ida said. “He said, ‘mom, you’re supposed to mess up when you are young.’ He thought he had time to make it right. He thought he had time to turn his life around. [But] we saw his life leading two places – jail or death, which broke our hearts.
“It was like a bad dream we just couldn’t stop.”
* * *
In addition to educating others, the Abels hope their younger daughter, Brianna, a junior at Jay High School, takes heed of the message.
“I know to pay attention to the road, not to drive stupid, no drunk driving and no texting while driving,” Brianna said.
Alan hopes their daughter will remember one simple message, should she get into a situation involving alcohol.
“Stop, look, listen and learn,” Alan said. “Just call somebody. Save money [DUIs cost thousands of dollars], save a life. Call somebody, anybody.
“Everyone carries a cell phone, call somebody. If Brandon had made a phone call, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
* * *
To help spread their message, the Abels have joined the Oklahoma Chapter of MADD. Alan has also become a member of the national FADD or Fathers Against Drunk Driving. At this time there is no state chapter of FADD.
“We are looking for outlets to help spread our message,” Alan said. “Twenty-eight people lose their life every day from alcohol and driving. That’s one person every 45 minutes. On Aug. 19, our son became one of the 28.
“We want people to make a phone call, to call someone to come get them. I want people to understand, they just need to make a phone call, to call somebody. If they don’t the wake of destruction they leave behind is massive.”
For more information, persons interested may contact MADD of Oklahoma at www.madd.org/local-offices/ok or 405-748-3122 or FADD at www.faddintl.org. Persons interested may also contact Alan Abel to speak about the issue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honoring First Responders
Alan and Ida Abel have repeatedly said they are grateful for the first responders who helped their son, Brandon, and Dakota Fullerton on the night of the accident.
“For everyone who touched our son, who gave their best efforts, words will never be enough,” Ida Abel said. “Our thank you’s will never be enough, but we want that out there."
The actions of one first responder, off-duty Grove Police Officer Daniel Amendolara during the accident, has received recognition from both the Grove Police Department and Governor Mary Fallin's office.
Amendolara, who was at his residence at the time of the incident, heard the impact of the crash, and responded. He assisted both Abel and his passenger, Dakota Fullerton, until medical personnel arrived at the scene.
Ida Abel credits Amendolara's actions for helping her son get out of the burning car following its impact with the tree.
He has been given a Governor's Commendation by Gov. Fallin and the Medal of Honor by Grove Police Chief Mark Morris.
"When you are a police officer, you are never 'off duty,'" Amendolara said. "That goes for any emergency personnel. When someone gets hurt or needs help, we do what needs to be done regardless.
"I swore to 'protect and serve' my community and thats what I did and will continue doing so.
"In a situation like that, you don't have time to think. You just react. Being where I was at that time when I saw the vehicle pass by, I don't know if it was fate or just a coincidence, but I knew I had to go help when I heard the impact.
"Doing what we do, you don't really think of the dangers you put yourself into, you just know there are other people in danger and need your help so you do what you have to do at any cost."
Amendolara said it's hard to receive accolades for an accident that ended in a fatality.
"It's nice to be recognized, but I feel I was just doing what any person would have done or hope they would have done in that situation," he said. "It's kind of hard to put into words the feelings I have toward the entire situation due to the loss of a young man's life."
Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the Friday, Sept. 18 issue of The Grove Sun.