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Community Safety

MHP and those Who Lost Loved Ones Remind Motorists to Pay Attention on Area Roadways

Two stories shared at the Missouri Highway Patrol Troop D Headquarters in Springfield highlight the need to pay attention on the road and not to drive after drinking.  And as the holidays approach, the roadways will be even more crowded than usual, raising the risk of more accidents.  KSMU's Michele Skalicky has more.

Missouri has seen an increase in fatality crashes this year.  During a news conference at the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Sergeant Jason Pace said as of Friday, 756 people had been killed on Missouri roadways.  Over the weekend that number increased by three, and by the end of the news conference, the number had risen to 761.

According to Pace, compared to the same time last year, fatal crashes statewide were up 12 percent and in Troop D they were up 39 percent.

"That basically accounts for 42 additional lives that have been lost compared to the same time last year," he said.  "Think about that--42 lives that are not here today to spend the holidays with family and friends because oftentimes of a poor choice."

Dr. Tim Boatwright knows all too well the impact poor choices can have on families.  His seven-year-old daughter, Bailey, was killed in 2004.  He, his wife, Kim, Bailey and 11-year-old son, Blake, had been to a wedding reception at the Tower Club where the kids had danced and had a good time.

On their way home to Buffalo, where Boatwright worked as an elementary school principal, they were hit head on by a drunk driver going the wrong way at more than 100 mph on Highway 65.

The two kids were buckled up in the backseat of their SUV, but they were all seriously injured in the crash.  Boatwright talked about what his wife remembered shortly after the impact.

"Bailey, my daughter who had just turned seven a couple of weeks earlier, had undone her seat belt and was crawled over on her big brother to try to help him out because he was in pretty bad shape.  And my wife always says that she remembers saying, 'Bailey, you'd better get off of Blake.  He's hurt really bad,' not knowing that my daughter's liver had been severed and that she was bleeding internally," he said.

He remembers being in the ambulance and hearing the 22-year-old who had hit the family talking about how many beers he’d had that night.  It was at the hospital that he learned Bailey did not survive.

After a lengthy stay, the surviving family members were released from the hospital.  Blake is now a senior at College of the Ozarks studying to become a nurse. 

They tell their story, Boatwright says, not to gain sympathy but to make a difference.

"We tell our story hoping that somebody will take it and maybe we can save a life or somebody will make a good choice.  In this situation, this young man had a choice.  He didn't come out thinking thinking that he was going to hit an innocent family.  But he did have a choice whether to get behind the wheel and make it all of our business," he said.

He wants to try to keep other families from experiencing the pain his family did.  He thinks sometimes about what might have been.

"Right now my daughter would be a senior in high school.  And we talk about that all the time, you know, what would she be doing?  I know one thing--she would be excited about basketball season getting started.  You know, I know she'd be excited about that.  We'd be talking about where she's going to go to college, what was she going to do?  She was a special little girl.  She loved sports.  She loved competing, but she also loved her dolls and she loved playing with her cousins," he said.  "I always have these memories of coming down here even in kindergarten, coming to The Courts down here and playing basketball and having fun and how much fun that she had and watching her big brother play ball and out in the yard playing whiffle ball and all those things.  It's tough when you see these kids and you're thinking, you know, 'she would be a senior in high school now and have her whole life in front of her.'"

It’s frustrating, he says, because it didn’t have to happen.  A choice made by one person impacted a lot of people.

After the accident, the Boatwrights decided to have more children—they have two younger kids who refer to Bailey as their “older sister that lives in Heaven.”

Jennifer Sampietro knows what the Boatwrights have been through.  Her husband, Corporal Jay Sampietro, a trooper for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, was struck and killed by a distracted driver on I-44 in Webster County in 2005 while helping to reconstruct the scene of an accident.

After seven years of counseling, she says the pain of her loss is still fresh.

"My life hasn't been the same, you know.  The life now is not the life that I chose.  And I think you carry that over and, you know, when you lose somebody, and I'm sure Mr. Boatwright can understand, is that you go through different processes of grief."

The couple was introduced by a mutual friend when Jennifer was 23 and Jay was 28.  Both were employed by the Highway Patrol but were in different troops.  A year later she says she married her “best friend.”

At the time of the accident their two sons were seven-months-old and four-years-old.

"We had two children so our schedules so we were always trying to figure out, 'what are we going to do with the kids?'  And so, that morning he was due to come to work, and I had to be at work earlier, and he was going to take the kids to the babysitter's, and I remember just getting off--he had called me, and I just had gotten off the phone with him and it's just telling each other, you know, about the kids and how our days were starting off and I just remember hanging up, and we always told each other that we loved each other," she said.

About 30 minutes later she was sitting at her job in communications at the Highway Patrol when she heard on the radio that an officer had been struck.

Sampietro wasn’t supposed to have been at the accident reconstruction site—he showed up to help out because that’s the kind of person he was.

"I always thought that there was something different about him.  He was just one of those people that he liked everybody.  Even the people that he arrested, he'd come home and tell us stories and he was just one of those people that--he didn't pass judgment," she said.

When she learned it was her husband who had been hit, Sampietro began to pray.

"Down on my knees that if he would just live through this, if he was in a wheelchair, I'd push him around for the rest of his life," she said.

She says the death of her husband continues to weigh heavily on the family.  Her 11-year-old son is struggling to figure out who he is without his father there to help him.  But she sees her late husband in her sons, and she’s grateful for that.

She wants people to remember that if you’re driving and you kill someone, it affects many people’s lives in many different ways.

Both Jay Sampietro and Bailey Boatwright are being remembered through efforts to help others.

The ninth annual Jay Sampietro Toy Drive starts Friday (11/27).  Toys for children in local hospitals can be dropped off at the Highway Patrol’s offices on E. Kearney and at Krispy Kreme on S. Campbell.

And donations for Missouri Safe and Sober can be made in Bailey Boatwright’s name through the Larson Law Firm.