Troy father relives daughter's tragedy to help keep teens safe
David Easterbrook's daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 1997
TROY, Mich. – Every time David Easterbrook has to talk about the day his daughter's life was taken by a drunk driver, but Easterbrook continues to relive that nightmare year after year with hopes that his tragedy will help keep other teen drivers safe.
"Kids are everything," he said. "That's what you live for. Here it is almost 18 years later and I still miss her—big hole in my heart."
His daughter Ashley Easterbrook would be 36 years old today.
"She gave me a kiss right before she left the house," he recalled. "I'll never forget that."
Ashley and two friends, Andy Stindt and Michael Jamieson went out for coffee one night in 1997. A drunk driver was going 108 mph when he hit the kids' car and split it in half.
The crash ended those three young lives and killed the drunk driver as well.
"I insisted on going to the crash site," Easterbrook said. "I wanted to see Ashley and hold her in my arms."
But the medical examiner had already taken her body from the scene. On the day of the funeral, Ashley's parents found a prayer in her journal.
"Please help me and everyone to be safe of the road," Ashley had written. "It scares me to think of people I know that drink, that maybe a friend could injure or kill me, or another friend. It scares me to death literally."
After the crash in 1997, Easterbrook made a promise.: "I just never want anyone to ever forget Ashley Easterbrook. She's a doll. A treasure…once in a lifetime."
At Troy High School, where Ashley was a few days from graduation, David tells the young listeners to think about making responsible choices.
"Ashley was a good kid," he told the audience. "People make bad decisions because they're only thinking about themselves."
"You've got to think things through. You can't think about yourself."
He has given this speech many times…in many places.
"I get in the car and sometimes I say to myself, David you're done with this," he said "This is tiring. It's emotional. Why put yourself through it?"
Then the answer hits him: Because these students and others are getting the message.
Drunk driving deaths in the last ten years are down 29 percent in Michigan.
Easterbrook and his wife Gail created The Foundation for Ashley's Dream, which has raised over a million dollars. Much of it provides scholarships to students who help in the fight against drunk driving.
"It's that anger that gives me the energy and the fight to try to make things better and keep other families from going through this," he said.
Each year, Ashley's picture appears on billboards.
When David drives by: "I look up and I see this beautiful gal looking at me. I smile and say hello. Ashley is there. Whenever I want her to be with me, I can find her."
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