Family torn apart by drunk driver relives pain to help others

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POULSBO —  Jessica Brooks was just seven years old when her mother Vanita was killed by a drunk driver.

“My mom was like the lady that I think every woman wishes that they were and everybody just loves,” Brooks said.

She was taking Jessica’s older brother to a church youth group in Silverdale in March of 1999, when they were hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way on Highway 3 near Poulsbo.

“He had a blood alcohol level of .32, swerved into their land and hit them head on,” Brooks said.

Jessica’s father Ricki was home with her and her other brother when the family got the call.  He rushed them to the scene.

“You have this life mapped out,” he said.  “This fairy tale life and for us that included our walk with the Lord, Jesus Christ.  We were missionaries and we just had this beautiful picture in our mind of giving him honor as we honored other people.  And, all of a sudden, in an instant that entire life that you had planned was over with.”

The drunk driver survived the crash, and Jessica remembers facing him in court.

“He had to stare me in the eye and know that he had taken my mom from me,” she said.  “It wasn’t just my life that was affected.  It wasn’t just my family.  It was his family too that had to watch him get handcuffed and taken to jail.”

Now Jessica and her dad speak publicly, pleading with people not to drink and drive.

“You relive it all the time,” Ricki said.  “And, we do that because, hopefully, maybe somebody will listen.  And, hopefully not have to go through what we’ve gone through.”

Marsha Masters is the Target Zero manager for Kitsap county.  Her message is simple.

If you’re going to drive, don’t drink.  If you’re going to drink, don’t drive.

“I want you to make a plan ahead of time,” Masters said.  “By the time you drink, it’s too late.”

It’s too late for the family of Vanita Brooks, but they hope another family won’t have to experience their pain.

“Allow me to be the last 7 year old girl to ever lose her mom,” Jessica said.  “Allow me to be the last daughter without a mother.  Or, allow my family to be the last family to ever lose anybody from this.  It’s just so senseless.”vanitabrooks

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