Devils Lake, N.D. - One bad decision, made by one drunk driver, tore a North Dakota family apart forever.
Three years after losing a daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, a grieving family is working to ensure no other family endures what they have.
Their message is simple. Everyone can make a choice when they drink. And that choice can be the difference between getting home safe, and destroying not only your life, but the lives of others.
July 6th, 2012. The worst day of Lynn Mickelson's life. His daughter, Allison Deutscher, Son-in-law Aaron, and granddaughter Brielle were driving from their West Fargo home to visit Aaron's parents in Bismarck.
Lynn Mickelson/Lost daughter’s family to drunk driver: “To announce the upcoming new arrival in the family. They were expecting their second baby.”
But they never made it.
Mickelsonn says, “They got hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way on I-94 about 30 miles west of Jamestown.”
Everyone involved in the crash died. An unimaginable tragedy, leading Mickelson to a new cause.
He says, “I feel you might say my calling to get the word out there about the dangers of drinking and driving.”
Today he shares his story with students at Devils Lake High School, showing how one choice can affect so many. Devils Lake assistant principal Christ Brodina was affected by the crash...a childhood friend of the Deutscher family.
Christa Brodina/Devils Lake High School assistant principal: “It's hard to look at the vehicle, and to imagine, and knowing the family, knowing that they lost their loved ones.”
The Mickelson's say it's like reopening an old wound every time they share their daughter's story. But they say it's worth it if they can help prevent other people from suffering the same fate.
Mickelson says, “I've kind of learned through this last year, year and a half, to just kind of choke back the tears. It's very, very difficult.”
Mickelson brought the car his daughter's family was in when they died. A stark reminder of the power of one decision.
He explains, “It puts a face to the tragedy.”
Students say the message resonates.
Trenton Runs Through/Student: ”I think it hit a lot of, a lot of people's hearts.”
Sadly, some can relate all too well.
Robert Left Bear Jr./Student: “Living on the rez, there's a lot of drunk drivers around, and I've been around that almost all my life. Really hard to hear other people's stories when I have my own.”
Students lined up after the presentation to give Mickelson a hug, partly for all he's been through...partly for what he's doing to prevent it from happening again.
Runs Through says, “Felt like he had a connection with everybody in there. Felt like he needed it.”
The Mickelson family was instrumental in enacting tougher DUI laws in North Dakota that went into effect in 20-13, often called Brielle's law, after their granddaughter.
Lynn Mickelson says alcohol-related deaths have dropped 25 percent in North Dakota in the last two years.