Tearful memories evoked at DWI sign dedication

July 2, 2015 • Local News

Bill Moffitt Photo

Dawn Lewis, left, fights back tears as she sits with her husband, Burl Lewis, during the dedication ceremony of a DWI sign Wednesday near where their daughter was killed in 2008. Police warn that they will be out in force for the Fourth of July weekend and will have zero tolerance for anyone caught under the influence while driving.


Members of the family left behind paid homage to their loved one — killed in a DWI crash seven years ago — by dedicating a DWI sign Wednesday near the area where the accident took place.
The sign shows a photograph of DWI crash victim Karen Sue Lewis, 24, who was killed Sept. 6, 2008, when a car plowed into the car she was driving at 19th Street and Garden Avenue.
“We call it a ‘DWI Crash’ and not an ‘accident,’” explained Diane Taylor of the Chaves County DWI Prevention Program. “It’s never an ‘accident’ whenever someone decides to consume alcohol.”
Taylor said that the sign was “the first of its kind” since it was inside the city limits. While the group has several signs in the county, Taylor credited the cooperation of the city in making it possible to put the sign in Roswell.
The sign is about 200 feet away from the crash site at the intersection due to water pipes, fences from the Wool Bowl softball fields, and other incidentals which made it impractical to put the sign any closer, Taylor explained.
Although the crash happened seven years ago, Lewis’ mother, Dawn Lewis, couldn’t hold back the tears during the ceremony.
“I thought it would be easy,” Lewis said. “I didn’t know it would (still) be this hard.”
Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh addressed the family in his comments.
“This isn’t easy for you and I understand that,” Kintigh said. “It’s been seven years but it doesn’t stop hurting. So, what you’re doing today is incredibly courageous; to share this and try and save others. That’s what you’re doing. You are willing to put aside your pain to try to keep other families from having this (happen to them).”
Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith said that his department would continue to diligently watch for and prosecute DWI drivers.
“We will enforce DWIs,” Smith told the audience. “If they’re out there we’re going to get them.”
New Mexico State Police Capt. Lance Bateman summarized the event by saying: “On Sept. 6, 2008, Karen Lewis lost her life because somebody made the decision to consume alcoholic beverages and operate a motor vehicle. This senseless tragedy cost a child their mother, a parent their child and a man his future wife.


Left: Members of the Lewis family stand in front of a new sign of Karen Sue Lewis after it was formally dedicated Wednesday on East Nineteenth Street near one of the Wool Bowl softball fields.
Lewis was killed by a drunk driver in 2008 leaving behind her family and loved ones. The sign, and the publishing of DWI drivers’ photographs in the Roswell Daily Record, is part of the Chaves County DWI Prevention Program.
Shown here are, from left, are her fiancé Isaac Atkinson, her 10-year-old son, Matthew Lewis, her twin sister Kimberly Lewis, her father, Burl Lewis, her nephew Burl Lewis III, and her mother, Dawn Lewis.
Check points and heavy police presence are promised by city, county and state law enforcement agencies throughout the Fourth of July weekend.
Above: Dawn Lewis, left, fights back tears as she sits with her husband, Burl Lewis, during the dedication ceremony for the DWI sign.


“This sign symbolizes that tragic day and will hopefully be a reminder to people (of) the dire consequences of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and/or drugs.
“This dedication could not have come at a better time, as law enforcement statewide recently kicked off the ‘100 Days and Nights of Summer’ campaign. During this campaign, the New Mexico State Police, and all other agencies in the state, will increase patrols to target intoxicated drivers as well as drivers that are texting while operating a motor vehicle.
“It is unfortunate that tragedies like (this) have to happen to remind us of what can happen when bad decisions are made. We ask that if you are going to consume alcoholic beverages, please utilize a designated driver or call a cab.”


By Bill Moffitt
Record Correspondent
Story and Photos

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