Never Forgetting the Victims & Their Families
Wayne Commins
Age 25

It was on the Friday before Mother’s day at 4:30 PM in the afternoon.  I had just come home from work and was preparing dinner, when the telephone rang.  It was my son Wayne, calling to say that he would be late coming home, since he had to enter essential data into the computer.
Wayne, a geological surveyor and engineer, had been out in the field all week and had just returned to his office.  He said “Mom, don’t worry about supper for me, I’ll get something here.”  In spite of his suggestion I continued to prepare supper for him and left it warming on the stove.

Wayne, 25 years old, was our youngest child and the last one living at home.  He, however, was eagerly preparing for his upcoming marriage.  His father, Wyndham, had died several years earlier.
That evening I retired early.  Suddenly, at 10:30 PM I was awakened from my sleep by a loud banging on the front door.  Not wishing to be aroused, I turned over and tried to muffle the sound with my pillow.  The banging persisted-then stopped.  Shortly afterwards, my telephone began ringing loudly and persistently.  Picking up the phone, a man’s voice on the other end called me by name, “Mrs. Commins, this is the Clarkstown police, would you please open your front door!”

Quickly, I put on a robe and ran down the stairs.  There in the doorway stood two young police officers who asked to come in.  Once inside, they asked me to sit down.  Without any further hesitation, they told me that my son Wayne had been killed by a drunk driver on the Palisades Parkway.  The horror and shock of their terrible news left me in utter disbelief.  I pleaded with them, and said, there must be some mistake.  My son Wayne was a skilled airplane pilot, as well as a helicopter pilot with very quick reflexes and perfect vision.  If he encountered a dangerous road condition he would have taken, without hesitation, decisive diversionary action.  The policemen shook their heads sadly and went on describing the accident.  Witnesses told them, the drunk driver, who was a wealthy 41 year old businessman, driving his Mercedes Benz, going approximately 90 mph, crossed over the grassy median, head on into Wayne, crushing Wayne’s small sport’s car against a tree, killing him instantly.

The police tried in vain to soothe my inconsolable grief.  Soon afterwards they departed, leaving me with terrible sorrow.  I could not bring myself to believe and kept asking why my beautiful young idealistic son should be killed so wantonly and so violently by a drunk driver.  Wayne, neither drank nor smoked.  In fact his friends would always defer to him as the “designated driver.”
From the earliest years, Wayne had been fascinated by the mysteries of our planet.  While growing up, he would explore the cave deep within the earth; squeezing his 6’4” frame through dark and narrow passages, and like an eagle would soar high above her mountains.  Wayne had learned first hand and was keenly aware of the beauty and fragility of our precious planet.  He had mapped out for himself a lifelong pursuit to help preserve this fragile environment -- the magnificent wonder in space--for all generations to come.  His sudden untimely death on the Palisades Parkway brought to a jolting halt all these hopes and aspirations.  He was an irreplaceable loss for all of us.  Not only was Wayne killed, but a car following behind him crashed also into the catastrophic disaster.  The three occupants of that other car are today suffering permanent brain damage and bodily disability.  The drunk driver suffered minor injuries.  The wealthy drunk driver, through his high priced lawyers was able to delay the trial for over two years.  When it did finally come to trial, the defense lawyers brought forth a parade of “so called experts” in an effort to cloud and confuse the jury with distortions and false statements and data.  In fact, at one point, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office said that they had never seen so much money spent and so many lawyers used in the defense of a drunk driver.  The trial finally took place during the hot months of July and August, lasting over nine weeks.  Day after day the defense lawyers would call scores of “so called experts”  to the witness stand.  These people would then try to shift the focus of the crime to marginal issues and vigorously distort the facts.  They accused the police of sloppy work, the hospital was accused of careless procedures and false lab reports, they would even question the validity of eye witnesses.  In short these “experts” were nothing more than highly paid witnesses, who were being paid ten’s of thousands of dollars for giving their false, misleading testimony.  The atmosphere in the courtroom would become so highly charged watching the clash of powerful lawyers arguing back and forth that one began to wonder who and what was on trial here.  At no time was the dead victim or his family ever mentioned.  In the end, after an exhausting, grueling nine weeks, the jury found the drunk driver guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to 17 years in the state prison.  The verdict brought welcome relief to our family as well as the entire community, who were eagerly following the outcome of our case.  But justice had indeed triumphed by convicting and removing, this multi-offending drunk driving criminal, from our roads.

Little did we know, before our terrible tragedy, that “Justice” was not a “Given .”   One must fight fearlessly and relentlessly to obtain it.  END DWI was the army that steadfastly and quietly stood beside us in our battle.  They provided the moral strength, fortitude and encouragement our family needed.  All during the trial, as well as before and afterwards, Florence Nass and her organization would fill the courtroom each day and quietly sat beside my family and I.  Not only did they give us their moral support, but also by their very presence, they sent a message throughout the courtroom, that ours was a united front. 

Our family shall always hold dear, an abiding indebtedness and gratitude to END DWI and all their wonderful members.  Without their unflinching support and steadfast perseverance, our terrible family tragedy would have gone down as just another highway casualty.

Submitted by Alice Commins