NORWALK, Ohio — A Huron County family is sharing its pain in hopes of preventing tragedy. Nearly 16 months after Alli Jo Kurdinat was killed by a drunk driver, her family and friends joined the Ohio State Highway Patrol at an OVI checkpoint.
“If we can change one person’s life and save one person from making a mistake like this, one person is worth it. If we can save many, that’s absolutely fantastic,” said Alli Jo’s mother Heather Armstrong.
OSHP set up the checkpoint on U.S. Route 250 in Norwalk Friday evening. Beside the row of troopers and cones, signs with Alli Jo’s photo and story sat in drivers’ sightlines. Each driver who was stopped also received a flyer with statistics about impaired driving and Alli Jo’s pictures.
“I want them to look at this beautiful girl,” said Veronica Stanley, Alli Jo’s stepmother.
Stanley was driving her stepdaughter to work on a Friday afternoon on May 21, 2021, when they encountered a driver investigators later learned had a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit.
“I was braking for the curve when out of nowhere a giant black truck came barrelling at us. I slammed on my breaks. He hit us,” Stanley recalled.
She was seriously injured in the crash. After nearly a month in a coma and 6 months in the hospital, she continues to feel the physical effects of the collision.
Both the driver and Alli Jo were killed.
“It only takes a split-second to change your life, somebody else’s life, and everybody around them,” said Jack Kurdinat, Alli Jo’s father.
Armstrong added, “It just felt like my life was over.”
The 15-year-old Norwalk High School Sophomore dreamed of becoming a chef on the west coast. Family and friends described her as a fun-loving, kind person.
“My sister was a ray of sunshine,” said Alli Jo’s sister Hannah Hales. “She made my day every day, she was my absolute best friend.”
Since Alli Jo’s death, her family has been determined to prevent others from driving impaired.
The commander from the OHSP Norwalk Post said he was inspired by a News 5 story about the family’s efforts to raise awareness. He reached out to them to join troopers for the Friday night OVI checkpoint in Alli Jo’s honor.
Everyone involved hoped the teen’s story and the image will encourage drivers to think twice before driving impaired.
“Our kids are out here, your sister’s out there, your mother, your brother,” said Armstrong. “These are real people in these other cars. It’s not just about you as the driver. It’s about everyone around you. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for someone else because nobody deserves to go through what we went through.”
According to OHSP, 720 people were killed in 13,762 OVI-related crashes in Ohio in 2021.
If you suspect an impaired driver, you can report it to OHSP by calling #677.