As prom and graduation season approach, a local mom offered an emotional warning about the potentially deadly consequences of drinking and driving.
Wednesday, the Camanche/DeWitt Coalition hosted a town hall meeting in Camanche, Iowa, on underage drinking. Dozens listened to police officers, health experts, and guest speakers talk about the harmful effects of hosting parties, drinking underage, and getting behind the wheel.
The most powerful speaker was Kelly Sparks, a Charlotte, Iowa, mom whose voice still wavers when she talks about July 23, 2011.
"The summer of 2011 was Justin's senior summer. It should have been the time of his life, the summer between high school and college," said Sparks.
Instead, Kelly got a call in the early morning hours, telling her that her son, Justin, had been in a car accident and was now in the hospital. Justin had a broken ankle, broken vertebrae, and concussion.
His friends, Jed and Kristin, were dead.
"We broke the news to him later that day. It was the most difficult thing I ever had to do as a parent -- we had to tell our son something that was going to devastate him," said Sparks.
After a night of drinking, Justin had gotten behind the wheel, with Jed and Kristin getting inside as well. Police found the smashed car in the early morning hours. All three had been thrown from the vehicle.
"He wanted to switch places with Jed and Kristin, he wanted to be able to take the pain away from their families," said Sparks.
In 2012, Justin Sparks pleaded guilty to two counts of homicide by vehicle. He served 60 days in jail, 400 hours of community service, and remains on probation. In total, the accident cost Justin nearly $600,000.
Kelly said not a day goes by that she doesn't think of the accident. The whole family's lives were forever changed.
"If it happened to them, it can happen to you. Don't think it can't," said Sparks.