DUI victim struggles "just to talk, to breathe"

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Ray Cruthirds was always an active man.  Now he's confined to a wheelchair, a quadriplegic with a severed spine.  His wife, Letha, sums it up best.  "I'm very sad, it is very sad, it's very sad way to live."

Ray was an airline pilot, and also flew in the military. Those days are over.  "Obviously, I can't fly anymore so I really enjoyed that career and that's gone. That's one of the major changes I have right now," Ray explained.

He was always keeping busy, either working in the yard or enjoying life on the coast.  "Now, I struggle just to talk, to breathe and if I did not have this strap to even sit up properly," Ray lamented.

A man named Charles Scrimpshire ran into Ray, who had to be pulled from his burning truck.  Letha knew things would never be the same.  "It was pretty devastating because I knew that my entire life was going to be altered and now it's very sad for me to watch my husband struggle to do anything," Letha said.

Scrimpshire pleaded guilty this week to DUI causing serious bodily injury, and will spend 20 years in prison.  Ray is satisfied that justice has been done, but adds a unique perspective. "This is a life sentence for me, I'll never get better. I'll never get out of this chair," Ray said. "Hopefully I'll get better to the point where I'm strong enough to do things for myself. I'll never have the use of my fingers again, I'll never get out of this wheelchair, I'll never be able to participate in life like I wanted to."

Ray also has a powerful message to those who choose to drink and drive.  "What I hope from this is that if someone is going to drive drunk, this is not a story for them but it's a story for the people around them, that see them drunk, to say maybe you shouldn't drive, you're too drunk,"  he said.

Despite his injuries, Ray Cruthirds still plans on maintaining a steady fitness regime, including purchasing a special bicycle that he can use to ride around his property.

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