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DUI crash survivor urges people not to drive drunk

Police launch holiday enforcement blitz

Published: Friday, Dec. 16 2011 6:56 p.m. MST

In this 2007 file photo, Clarissa Ceran embraces her father, Gary Ceran, after speaking to the media about the complete forgiveness he and his family have bestowed upon Carlos Rodolfo Prieto. Prieto was sentenced in the drunken driving incident that killed Ceran's wife and two of his children.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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BOUNTIFUL — The crumpled car sitting on top of the Christmas trees evoked an emotional response from Gary Ceran.

"As you see the Christmas trees strewn in front, torn apart, that's in essence what happened to my Christmas," Ceran said Friday.

Ceran became emotional at times as he stood in front of the staged crash, surrounded by law enforcement officers, to help the state kick off a holiday DUI enforcement blitz that will end New Year's Day.

On Christmas Eve 2006, the Ceran family was returning from some last-minute Christmas shopping when Carlos Prieto ran a red light and slammed into the family's van.

"I lifted my son's head and actually tried to begin giving him a blessing and as I did, massive amounts of blood came pouring out his nose," Ceran recalled. "I felt his neck for a pulse and there was none."

Ian Ceran died, as did his mother, Cheryl, and sister, Julianna. Gary Ceran's two other children were injured, but survived the crash.

"You never think it's going to happen to you," Ceran said. "You never think that you're going to be the one that's the victim."

Ceran forgave Prieto within days of the crash. Prieto pleaded guilty to three counts of automobile homicide and was sentenced to serve up to 10 years in prison.

"At his sentencing I stood up for 15 or 20 minutes and pled with the judge to be merciful," Ceran said.

Utah Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Danny Fuhr said troopers, officers and deputies throughout the state will be working "thousands of extra hours" in the next two weeks to deter, detect and arrest drunken drivers. A similar enforcement blitz over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend resulted in 82 DUI arrests.

The focus on reducing DUIs is having an impact, according to Gov. Gary Herbert, who called on Utahns to plan ahead if they plan to drink.

"You need to have someone who can take care of you and drive you home," Herbert said.

Utah is the No. 1 state in the nation for the fewest alcohol-related fatalities, he said.

"In fact, we have six fewer fatalities this past year than we had the year before," the governor said, "and that means that we're doing some good things."

But Herbert also noted that the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control sees a 50-percent spike in liquor sales during December. And state statistics show that crashes involving drunken drivers are 3 ½ times more likely to result in a death.

"We don't want to have our happy holiday season marred by an annual unmemorable event that somebody in our family's been killed or maimed," Herbert said.

Ceran — still flanked by dozens of officers — had a clear message for anyone who might consider getting behind the wheel after having one too many in the next two weeks.

"If you get hammered," he said, "you're going to get nailed."

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com, Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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