Think Twice Before Driving Drunk

by Ana J. Beard

On Saturday Dec. 26, 2009 David James DelSignore hit four girls walking down Highway 200, killing two (Ashlee Patenaude, 14 years old, and Taylor Cearley, 15), and injuring the others.

This tragic accident was due to DelSignore’s poor decision to drive home drunk. Because of this, the two surviving girls, all of their families, as well as their friends, classmates and acquaintances, have to deal with the heartbreak of losing two girls who were far too young.

On Facebook a group was made in loving memory of Patenaude and Cearley, and within five days, over 5000 members have joined. People are paying their respects and posting their sympathies for the friends and families, but looking through the comment threads (as well as the comment threads on the Missoulian coverage) there are people writing about how DelSignore deserves the death penalty or to be thrown in the middle of the fairground rodeo area so friends of Patenaude and Cearley can “get drunk and have a demolition derby.”

In times of tragedy and loss, everyone is rushing around to place blame. DelSignore is fully responsible for his actions but an eye for an eye won’t make anything any better. Hating him won’t bring back these girls, or cure any heartaches. DelSignore will have to live with this mistake for the rest of his life, it will most likely haunt him and that is punishment enough (on top of jail time, of course).

As for blaming the parents or the girls themselves (which some people have had the nerve to do), the girls where NOT breaking Missoula curfew, which is 1 a.m. on a weekend night and this could have happened on any road, at any time of night. It’s not their fault they chose Highway 200 as opposed to the dark residential streets-the EXACT streets our parents have always told us to avoid at night, in caution of rapists, kidnappers, and, ironically enough, poor lighting and drivers who aren’t paying attention or are inebriated.

All of this should remind us to hold our loved ones close, live life to the fullest and please, please, please don’t drink and drive. Call a friend, or a taxi cab. Don’t get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Even if you think you’re okay to drive, you never know, that assumption could lead to one life-changing mistake.

A joint memorial service will be held for Patenaude and Cearley Thursday Dec. 31, 2009 at 1 p.m. in the gym at Bonner School. Also, Hellgate students plan to wear white in memory of Patenaude and Cearley on Monday, Jan. 4, 2010.

The community is also invited to Saturday’s Hellgate basketball game against Sentinel at Sentinel at 10 a.m. All four girls were on the team (consisting of nine players). Attendees will also be wearing white and there will be gold ribbons being sold for a dollar in their honor.
Donations on behalf of the deceased families are being accepted by Bonner School and can be sent to: Bonner School, P.O. Box 1004, Bonner, MT 59823. Also, the Missoula Federal Credit Union has set up a fund for the expenses the families of all four girls called “The Hellgate Girls Fund”.

  1. JC

    Thanks for the heartfelt writeup Ana.

    The MFCU has a splash page for people logging into their online accounts with the transfer information, making it easy for folks to contribute electronically. I was checking my balance tonight, and the MFCU info for the Hellgate Girls Fund was the first thing that showed up on login.

    My heart goes out to the families and friends of the Hellgate students. My daughter is a recent Hellgate alumnus, and car crash survivor, and we followed the events as they unfolded on FB from friends and the group.

    It brought back many memories of the struggle we went through not many years ago, and how the outpouring of support from the community was what kept us buoyed through the dark times.

    While many will castigate DelSignore, I only hope that there can be a silver lining, and that this tragedy will help to move our community to one where injuries and deaths from drunken driving are a thing of the past.

  2. Lizard

    ana, your sentiments in this post echo my exact feelings when a close friend of mine was hit by a drunk driver while she was walking home one night during our first year of college.

    most of my friends wanted to see the guy, at the very least, get thrown into jail for the rest of his life. only myself and another friend seemed able to set aside our desire for revenge to understand this young man’s poor decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated had already effectively derailed his life forever. throwing him in jail couldn’t bring her back. and, besides, he was only guilty of the kind of poor judgement many of my friends, myself included, have been guilty of sometime in our lives.

    it’s absolutely heartbreaking. every time something like this happens, i think of her, and what she might be doing if her life wasn’t cut short.

    this issue, as others have already indicated, is a cultural problem, and until it’s addressed at that level, these types of needless tragedies will keep happening.

  3. This whole situation is so unbelievably sad….

    Thanks Ana, for your post. People need to understand how bad choices can turn disastrous in moments, and how a lifetime can be changed instantly.

    I, like JC, hope some good can come out of this somehow somewhere someday.

  4. problembear

    this is a fine post anna. wish we older adults could show the maturity restraint and good sense that you offer in this difficult time for all the affected parties.

  5. problembear

    speaking of addictions and bad culture is it my imagination or is the montana lottery kind of going overboard today in urging desperate people to spend 20 bucks on their millionaire game?

    seems in poor taste at least to use government tax dollars to lure profligate spending when many families are barely getting by or falling behind…

    maybe when the legislature convenes next they could not only provide our legal system with a better answer to drunk driving, boating etc but also switch off all the lottery type promotions that our state is engaged in and dial back the hucksterism.

    • petetalbot

      Well said, Ana. Nice to have some sanity in what it was an insane loss of two young women.

      Off subject, but thanks PB for mentioning the lottery. Lee Newspapers has been pimping this Montana Millionaire big time: “Get your tickets,” “They’re selling like hotcakes,” “We’ll be announcing the winners,” etc. Journalism at its finest.

      One has to wonder, if Montana was getting a cut from meth labs, then maybe our state agencies (and the Fourth Estate) would be promoting them, too.

  6. problembear

    not really blaming the msm as much as the state for this travesty of shameless promotion of gambling, pete. but i have noticed that my sports channels have been deluged and over-saturated with the two guys on a porch television ad for the montana lottery lately – seems pretty over the top even for this pro-vice problembear…..

    i would like the state supreme court to take a look at the intent of our pro-gambling vote way back when and maybe check into whether the citizens of montana really endorsed saturate the market expensive over-hyped promotions to lure desperate people into losing what little they have left.

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