Red Light Runner Awareness Month: 2 fathers share heartbreaking stories
Howard Fleischmann's son, a U.S. Marine, was going to say goodbye to family before heading to Afghanistan when he was killed by a red-light runner. (Source: CBS 5 News)
John Philippi's daughter was 17 when she was in a crash with a red-light runner. She survived, but still suffers from mentally and physically. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
Running red lights is a violation to which almost half of all drivers admit. It's also among the most common causes of traffic accidents with the worst kind of injuries.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has declared March as Red Light Running Awareness Month in Arizona for the 15th year in a row.
CBS 5 News spoke with two men Tuesday night with powerful stories. Their children were hit by motorists who ran red lights.
In a fraction of a second, their lives were changed forever, and they're hoping to get people to realize nothing is worth the risk of blowing through a red light.
"April 25, 1998, was her prom night," John Philippi remembered about his daughter, Krystal.
A month before graduation, the 17-year-old girl had it all.
"She was a senior in high school, a 4.0-average student, varsity cheerleader," John Philippi said.
But that night, a devastating crash caused a traumatic brain injury and landed Krystal Philippi in a coma for 10 weeks.
Doctors predicted the worst: "She would never walk again, never talk again, be in a vegetative state the rest of her life," John Philippi said.
Krystal Philippi was struck by an inexperienced, teenage driver who ran a red light.
"My daughter was going through this the rest of her life, and they paid a $110 ticket," John Philippi explained.
After years of intensive therapy, Krystal Philippi was able to overcome most of her injuries, though she still has cognitive and memory loss issues, along with seizures.
She earned a business degree from Arizona State University in 2005 and is now married.
Her dad still wrestles with the senselessness of what happened.
"It's really hard to talk about it. Fifteen years later and you kind of relive that moment. You'll always relive that moment," John Philippi said.
In 2008, Howard Fleischmann wasn't as fortunate.
"My son, who was a Marine, was coming home to say goodbye for the weekend to go back to Afghanistan, and within three miles of the house, was hit and killed by a red-light runner," recalled Fleischmann.
Manuelito "Mano" Patton was 34 and died instantly at the scene.
"Shouldn't happen. Just shouldn't have happened," Fleischmann said.
The two fathers are part of a group called Red Means Stop, an organization aimed at saving lives by educating young drivers and bringing awareness to a widespread problem.
"At the time, Phoenix was rated No. 1 in the nation for worst red-light runners in the country," Philippi said of the year of his daughter's crash.
Now, Phoenix still ranks among the top five cities with red-light running fatalities.
They deeply affect everyone involved, even those who are guilty.
"Today, our son's picture is still at the center of their dining room table, so their family's been altered also. Everybody needs to understand, there's no winner. There's no winner," Fleischmann said.
Red Means Stop is a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to teens for a highly rated driver training program. Learn more by going to its website at www.redmeansstop.org.
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