Drinking and Driving: A First-Hand Experience

Kwiatkowski family tragedy happened in 1998

Mike Baggerman
July 19, 2018 - 3:00 am

Bob and Angie Kwiatkowski (Center) Present $12.233.30 check to STOP-DWI Office Director John Sullivan. July 18, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - March 6, 1998 was the day that forever changed the life of Bob and Angie Kwiatkowski.

Their daughter, Karen, was running errands on that Friday night when Mike McCarthy, a man who earlier that Friday was arrested for a DWI but was released and obtained his vehicle, sped down Seneca Street in the wrong lane and struck a car stopped at a red light head on.

Karen was in that vehicle.

"She died within a half hour after that crash," Bob Kwiatkowski said. 

Twenty years later, Kwiatkowski's voice trembled telling the story of the incident. 

"Oh, sure (it still hurts)," Bob said. "The worst thing in my life is that I had to bury my daughter."

"You never forget," Angie added. "You just have to learn to live with it and that's the hard part."

McCarthy was given a prison sentence between 5 and 15 years but was released after 10. Bob Kwiatkowski said he has no desire to literally or figuratively run into him and they'd rather not know his condition. 

Shortly after Karen's death, the Kwiatkowski's established a non-profit called Crusade Against Impaired Driving (CAID) Foundation. The foundation organized softball tournaments for about seven years. Their mission was to educate the public about the dangers of drinking and driving and advocate on behalf of victims. 

However, CAID will have to retire its operations because Bob and Angie's rising age and Karen's sister Deanna recently moved to work. There have also been a lack of volunteers

"We can't do it ourselves," Bob said. 

Erie County on Wednesday announced that the number of DWI arrests have decreased by six percent through the first half of 2018 compared to 2017. Bob said he was happy to see progress.

"Unfortunately, I do follow the newspaper and we are seeing the DWI cases in the newspaper," he said. "When these people have two times, three times the amount of alcohol in their blood. It's scary. It's still happening."

Angie said they were able to leave a mark in the fight against drinking and driving by establishing a law that would require the vehicle driven by someone arrested by DWI be impounded for 12 hours. 

"People have to be aware that if you go out and get caught, you're not having your car for 12 hours," she said. 

The non-profit had approximately $12,233.30 left in its bank account. They announced Wednesday that the money will go to Erie County's STOP-DWI program.

"It's extremely humbling," John Sullivan, Director of Erie County's STOP-DWI Office, said. "I know that the Kwiatkowski's have wanted to see victim's service and public information and education efforts as the use for these funds. There's going to be plenty of opportunities for us to use this money in that way because that's a big part of (our mission)."

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