A little over five years ago, Kiley and Royce Purcell were enjoying the Winter Festival of Lights in Ocean City.
Her son, Royce III, had just turned three, and they’d spent the afternoon celebrating with family.
Purcell had lived in Millsboro with her mother, Lisa Pink, and brother, G. Keith Rogers, for most of her life. She and Pink had worked together at Doyle’s Restaurant, in Selbyville.
“We were very close,” Purcell pointed out.
Even after she married and left home, Purcell stayed close (Dagsboro). The family gathered there for the birthday celebration.
Afterwards, the Purcells headed down toward Ocean City while Pink, Rogers and his fiancée, Laura Taylor, headed back for Long Neck.
They never made it home.
Along the way, a drunk driver crossed the centerline and struck Pink’s SUV head-on with his vehicle.
Rogers, 19, died instantly. According to Purcell, Pink survived the crash but died three minutes away from arriving at the helipad at Christiana General Hospital.
Taylor sustained serious injuries. She survived — barely.
The Purcells later learned that the other driver had a 0.39 blood alcohol concentration, and three prior DUI arrests — and that is why Kiley Purcell is still telling the story, more than five years later.
She has plans to become a victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), lending assistance to other people who fall into her shoes, just as she was helped.
MADD’s Trish Bachman (victim services) characterized the program as another option for people who’d experienced injury or the death of a loved one.
“Some need greater support, and we can provide them a referral to professional counselors, but a lot of the time, people just need someone to talk to,” Bachman pointed out.
“People need information and support through every phase of the system,” she continued. “Most people come to us with grief issues, but also to get some media attention, because they feel the criminal justice system has let them down.”
Purcell and her family asked the judge to impose the maximum penalty, and he did. The drunk driver who took the lives of her mother and brother was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years in jail.
The family put up a very visible memorial at the crash site on Route 24. For Purcell, it’s a sacred place, and she said they visited the memorial more often than they visit the grave markers.
To passersby, it’s a stark reminder of the costs of driving drunk.
Since then, she has accompanied former MADD President Dolly Banks to sobriety checkpoints, handing out brochures and ribbons to motorists passing through.
Purcell said she’d spoken to Bachman about becoming a victim advocate. “I’m going to do it,” she stated. “It’s just a matter of taking the classes and getting it set up.”
Working with MADD will likely place Purcell in many heart-wrenching situations, but she said it was the best thing she could do for her mother and brother.
“My mother gave me breath, but it was taken from her,” she said. “This is my chance to give it back. This allows me to give them a voice.
“After the accident, I realized drunk driving was much more of a problem than I’d thought,” Purcell said. “I’d never worried about it before — now, I am.
“I’m motivated to look at things with open eyes, now,” she continued. “I don’t take things for granted the way I used to.”
For more information about MADD, call (302) 853-6233.