IDALOU, TX (KCBD) – An Idalou coach believes texting and driving gave her and her family a brush with death and now she wants to share her story with students. Amy Whittle, 35, invited KCBD NewsChannel 11 Sports Director Pete Christy to come make a joint presentation with her in front of Idalou school students in mid-February.
Pete is the creator of BUST or Buckle Up & Stop Texting. He has made several presentations to various schools since the November 2009 death of Seagraves High School Student Alex Brown. Brown died, authorities have said, as the result of a crash while texting & driving. Whittle says she feels a strong connection to the Brown story.
Whittle, her daughters, mother and father were in an SUV on October 23rd near Winters, Texas when Kera Martin, 22, crossed the center line. Martin died at the scene. To this day Whittle still needs crutches to get around.
Whittle's mother and children suffered non-life-threatening injuries but her father was critically injured. "For the first six weeks he was very touch and go," Whittle tells KCBD NewsChannel 11. "Five times we were told he wasn't gonna make it. And so that was very hard for our family."
Whittle says she cannot be 100 percent sure but she strongly believes texting and driving is at the root of the crash. "The paramedics at the scene said her phone was in her hand," she says. The Texas DPS official accounts say Martin crossed the center line but never said why.
Roughly one month after the crash Whittle saw a news item about Brown and BUST. "After I saw the Seagraves story and I heard that mother say no text is worth your life."
Whittle says, "I mean, our whole story is about a split second. For a split second she did not see us coming and hit us. She already lost her life. We could have lost all six of ours."
After Whittle showed pictures of her crash and Christy showed pictures of the Alex Brown crash, Idalou students were invited to sign the BUST pledge, which is a promise to not text and drive.
"I mean, yes, [if] anybody touches our story; it's worth it. Ya know, if God is using us as a vessel to teach and let other people learn from our experience, it's been worth it." Whittle says.
Idalou Senior Danielle Patrick says, "I felt that the story of Alex Brown really hit people and I thought coach's story showed how it doesn't just happen in bigger towns. It happens in small towns too."
While in Idalou, Pete collected 221 signatures on BUST forms. So far a total of 5247 people that we know of have signed and returned a BUST pledge.
KCBD NewsChannel 11 is offering BUST stickers to folks who sign the form and send it to the station. You can (click here) to download and print the form and Pete Christy is willing to come to your school with a PowerPoint presentation. If the Alex Brown truck is available her mom is willing to bring it for a presentation as well. You can contact us here at the station for more details if you're interested.
By the way Jeanne Brown was contacted Thursday afternoon by the Oprah Winfrey show as texting and driving is a nationwide problem.
UPDATE 4/6/2010: Martin's mom, Jackie Martin, asked KCBD.com to add the following statement to our story. "Although phone use will always be a question, we do not know that Kera Martin was on her phone and do not know that she was texting at the time of the accident." Martin says her daughter's phone was off when it found in the wreckage and there are any number of possibilities as to what might have caused Kera to become distracted.
"We just do not know what happened," Jackie Martin says.
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