On July 17, 2004, Clovis resident Christian Heller and his wife, Regina, experienced every parent's worst nightmare — their son's car was hit by a drunken driver.
Christian calls it an "incident" rather than an "accident" since accident connotes something unavoidable.
The incident happened at 21st and Prince Streets in Clovis when 24-year-old Christian Kenneth Heller was rear-ended at a red light by a 46-year-old Clovis farmer going 60 mph.
Christian survived for 1,028 days before dying at 27 from his injuries.
The driver received only three years in prison, getting released a few months after Christian passed away. He never apologized in person, and Christian has no sympathy for him.
"When I saw Christian lying in the hospital, virtually lifeless, my emotions turned to ice. I called my wife and gave her the assessment. She met me there crying. I remained calm until I found out he would never walk again," says Christian.
"I miss my son daily; some days are extremely rough. My wife is a bit more selective with her emotions and withdraws from time to time."
Christian, who has two surviving children, is active in DWI prevention and urges others to consider the consequences of drunken driving.
"I have great memories of our son," Christian says. "He was a fun-loving man — always helpful to others with a heart of gold. Even after the incident he would still give people the shirt off his back."
Contact Wendel Sloan at: firstname.lastname@example.org