Couple shares devastating loss of granddaughter in DUI crash - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Couple shares devastating loss of granddaughter in DUI crash

Gary and Elaine Thomas lost their granddaughter in a DUI crash almost 21-years ago, but the images from that horrible day still haunt them. (Photo source: WLOX) Gary and Elaine Thomas lost their granddaughter in a DUI crash almost 21-years ago, but the images from that horrible day still haunt them. (Photo source: WLOX)
"She was a good child and I think she was kind and she cared about everybody else," said Elaine Thomas. (Photo source: WLOX) "She was a good child and I think she was kind and she cared about everybody else," said Elaine Thomas. (Photo source: WLOX)
Christmas Eve 1994, Elaine was driving home on County Farm Rd when a drunk driver swerved into her lane. Carla Thomas, buckled in and sleeping in the backseat, was killed on impact. (Photo source: WLOX) Christmas Eve 1994, Elaine was driving home on County Farm Rd when a drunk driver swerved into her lane. Carla Thomas, buckled in and sleeping in the backseat, was killed on impact. (Photo source: WLOX)
The Thomas' formed "Gulf Coast Deter," a program that helps DUI offenders understand how drinking and driving affects families. (Photo source: WLOX) The Thomas' formed "Gulf Coast Deter," a program that helps DUI offenders understand how drinking and driving affects families. (Photo source: WLOX)
As part of the healing process, every day, Elaine and her husband visit Carla's grave. The child is buried on the couple's property.  (Photo source: WLOX) As part of the healing process, every day, Elaine and her husband visit Carla's grave. The child is buried on the couple's property. (Photo source: WLOX)
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

One big danger on the road this holiday weekend is people who drink, then get behind the wheel. With more drivers on the roads and Fourth of July celebrations underway, alcohol could be a dangerous mix.

One Harrison County couple has experienced the devastating impact of drinking and driving. They lost their granddaughter in a DUI crash almost 21-years ago, but the images from that horrible day still haunt them.

"She was a good child and I think she was kind and she cared about everybody else," said Elaine Thomas.

It's still hard for Elaine Thomas to look at her granddaughter's picture without crying.

"I miss seeing her, talking to her," she said.

She misses a sweet little girl who loved horses, her first grandchild whose life was cut short in a DUI crash.

"It's been almost 21 years. It's still, it was like yesterday," said her husband Gary Thomas.

It was Christmas Eve 1994. Elaine had just dropped off some presents at her parents' house. She was driving home on County Farm Road, with nine-year-old Carla Thomas buckled in and sleeping in the backseat. Elaine said suddenly, a car coming from the opposite direction shifted in and out of her lane.

"I swerved to the left, which was a lane he should have been in. The next thing I knew, he hit me," said Elaine.

The impact tore off the entire right side of her car. A witness helped pull Elaine out.

"I told him I had to find my granddaughter, because she didn't answer me," said Elaine with tears in her eyes. "I remember him saying, 'There's nothing that you can do for her now.'"

Carla died that Christmas Eve. That day was also Elaine's birthday.

"And so I don't want to celebrate birthdays anymore. It's rough. I wish they would do away with Christmas," she said.

Elaine quit her job at a Gulfport school. She sought psychiatric treatment for ten years. As part of the healing process, every day, Elaine and her husband visit Carla's grave. The child is buried on the couple's property.  

"I just tell her that I miss her and I'm sorry and stuff like that," said Elaine.

The Thomas' formed "Gulf Coast Deter." The program gives some DUI offenders a choice between going to jail or attending a Victims' Impact Panel. The couple wants to share their experience to show how drinking and driving affects families.   

"I always break down, and usually afterwards, I really feel kind of exhausted I guess, because I had to go through that again," said Elaine.

"When you're at Walmart or some place and some guy walks up to you and says, 'Hey look, I seen you in the Victims Impact Panel two years ago and I haven't had anything to drink since,' it makes you feel good," said Gary.

The Thomas' told us the driver of the other vehicle was charged with DUI. The couple has this simple message for all drivers.

"Get a designated driver," said Gary.

"Make your plans. Make your plans first before you even start drinking, and get home safely," said Elaine.

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