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Woman who lost 3 loved ones to drunk driver urges responsibility behind the wheel

Troopers stepping up enforcement over Thanksgiving weekend
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Posted at 6:14 PM, Nov 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-23 18:52:14-05

LOUISVILLE, Ohio — More than 16 months have passed since Christi Sinchak, of Kent, lost three loved ones because of the actions of a drunk driver.

"It's devastating. It's still devastating," Sinchak said. "It's just one day they're there and the next day they're not. It's like it happened so fast. You didn't get to say goodbye."

Sinchak's mother, Diane Clark, 65, was killed along with Clark's brother, Dave Miller, 71, and Clark's boyfriend, Charles Neff, 66, on July 15, 2021.

Deputies said a drunk driver, who was also killed in the crash, was going well over 100 miles per hour when he crashed head-on into a vehicle driven by Neff on State Route 153 in Nimishillen Township in Stark County.

Sinchak said her mother was a caring, great-grandmother and a genuine person who opened up a coffee shop in Louisville several years ago to connect with her community.

"She just loved to greet everybody with her smile. That's what everybody would say. She always had a smile for everybody," Sinchak said.

The Stark County Sheriff's Office honored all three victims in August during its annual memorial checkpoint event.

Miller was remembered as a U.S. Army veteran who fought in Vietnam. Neff was recalled as a well-respected electrician who had 12 grandchildren. Clark loved spending time with family and making trips to Amish country.

Beginning Wednesday and continuing over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the Ohio State Highway Patrol is stepping up enforcement in an effort to prevent tragedies.

Sergeant Ray Santiago said troopers are watching for speeders and distracted motorists with an added emphasis on working to get drunk drivers off highways and roadways.

"What folks are going to see is we're going to be just about everywhere. There's going to be a definite visible presence," Santiago said.

During last year's Thanksgiving reporting period— Nov. 24 through Nov. 28— there were 14 fatal crashes that killed 17 people. Of those, seven crashes involved alcohol and/or drugs, OSHP said.

Santiago said planning ahead with a sober driver could spare troopers from delivering agonizing news to families.

"There's nothing in our training manual that has ever prepared any of us for dealing with that emotional stress," he said.

Sinchak is urging people, who have been drinking, to be responsible by calling for a ride or using a ride-sharing service. She also stressed that bars and restaurants need to pay attention to customers who appear to be intoxicated.

"It's important for establishments to recognize when patrons have had too much and to stop serving," Sinchak said.

As she prepares to spend her second Thanksgiving without three loved ones, Sinchak hopes her message will spare others from the heartaches she endures.

"It changed a lot of peoples' lives. It was three of our family members and it affected a lot of people and a community. It just takes one time to do the wrong thing."

Drivers are encouraged to call 677 to report impaired drivers, drug activity or stranded motorists.

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