Crash survivors give East Ridge students sobering message
Adam Lunn believes the night he crashed his car into motorcyclist Adam Gadach, it was a choice - not an accident.
"My life was forever changed because of the choices that somebody else made," Gadach said.
Four years ago, Gadach was hit head-on by Lunn on a rural St. Croix County, Wis., road. Lunn, who had been driving under the influence, fled the scene and had no idea what he had done.
Gadach was airlifted to a hospital where he needed 15 units of blood, underwent 10 hours of surgery and ended up losing his left leg.
But the pain that lasted to this day is not just physical.
"June 9, 2007: a day that I'll never forget, my family would never forget, my friends will never forget and hopefully you guys will never forget," Gadach told East Ridge High School students Thursday.
As participants of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), the victim teamed up with the drunk driver who nearly took his life to tell their stories and make sure young people don't make choices that would not only affect them, but everyone else in their lives.
With prom coming up this weekend, public safety officials staged a mock crash outside East Ridge High School Thursday followed by the presentation by Gadach and Lunn.
There was one clear message: Don't drink and drive.
But the heartfelt stories of a victim who was severely injured by a drunk driver, as well as the remorseful side of the story told by the drunk driver himself, got students thinking about possible consequences they're likely to face if they, too, make the wrong choice.
"For me, to be actually standing here right now is a miracle in itself," Gadach said.
The night of the crash was filled with wrong choices.
Lunn, who had been an alcohol and drug abuser since the age of 13, made plans to go out with friends, have a few beers, and then go home. He ended having so much to drink that his friend took his keys to keep him from driving home.
But Lunn had a spare key in his wallet and drove home anyway. Little did he know that choice would cause a crash that would change many lives.
After crashing into Gadach, he fled the scene, spent the night in a barn and woke up in unfamiliar clothing with blood on his hands, all the while clueless of what went on the night before. Then he walked to a friend's house and they went out looking for his car.
Soon after that, law enforcement contacted him about his vehicle telling him that he crashed it. He said he thought he must have crashed into a pole or a tree, not another human being.
The crash was so severe that Gadach's helmet was actually later found in Lunn's car, according to news reports.
Lunn was later arrested and charged with driving under the influence and causing bodily harm.
"I was sitting in this jail cell and I was praying to God for him to live," Lunn said of Gadach, adding that he was planning to kill himself after getting out because he couldn't deal with the guilt, emotion and remorse.
"Every time we do this, I still shake," Lunn told an auditorium full of students Thursday. "... I still feel as much guilt and shame as I did when I found out what I did."
Lunn was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. At his sentencing hearing, Gadach and his family told the judge how the crash impacted their lives.
Gadach was in a medically induced coma after the crash for seven days in order to stabilize all the broken parts in his body. Later he had to have his leg amputated but was able to walk by October of that year when he was fit with a prosthetic leg.
"You see this, guys," he told the students as he pointed at his left leg.
"... I know it's just a leg," he continued as he took it off.
"That's a life sentence I got on June 9," he said while placing the prosthetic leg back on.
But eventually Gadach forgave Lunn and the two are now friends who give multiple presentations to try to prevent one more crash from happening or one more life from changing forever.
"Carrying around that anger and resentment would've done me no good," Gadach said.
The two presentations were well-received by East Ridge High School students and led to additional questions by the teens.
They were curious to know how a felony impacted Lunn's life, how Gadach was able to pay for his $500,000 in medical bills and if Lunn is now 100 percent sober.
It's difficult for Lunn to land jobs that he desires, Gadach was able to get some government assistance to pay his bills and Lunn said he's definitely sober since the crash.
"Drunk driving is one of the most selfish things a person can do," Lunn said.
Gadach, who said he has also made regrettable mistakes while under the influence, shared a couple of personal stories he wasn't proud of, including one where he was so angry with a girlfriend that he reached for a hammer and started hitting himself to stop the argument.
"I don't want you guys to have a couple of choices of stupidity to screw up your life," Gadach said.
Lunn of River Falls, Wis., and Gadach of Deer Park, Wis., left hoping their stories would stick in the students' minds.
"What you guys heard today, it isn't a speech, it isn't a story, it's our life," Gadach said.