Father shares story with local teenagersAs Published April 24, 2014
Gannett News Service
Written by David Berman
Gazette Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Flanked by photos of his late daughter and her crumpled SUV, Richard Rooney plumbed the depths of his family’s despair Wednesday.
Rooney recalled the night his daughter, Annie, was fatally injured in a head-on crash with a drunken driver on U.S. 50 outside of Chillicothe. His audience — Chillicothe High School juniors and seniors just days away from their prom — sat in stunned silence in the high school auditorium as he spared few details about her death and the devastation it wrought.
“I stand before you the grieving father of Annie Rooney,” he said. “My plea is that the killing and dying must stop.”
The 36-year-old Rooney was returning home from a friend’s house July 4, 2013, when her Lincoln Navigator was struck by a drunken driver who was traveling at an estimated 80 mph and whose blood alcohol content was about twice the legal limit. Her father, meanwhile, was taking part in a Bible study group.“
Little did I know, my daughter was three miles away, dying in a crushed car,” he said.
Rooney said he and his wife rushed to the hospital to find Annie “barely clinging to life.” They rode with her in an ambulance from Adena Medical Center to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, but her injuries were too severe, the time she spent trapped in her vehicle too prolonged. At 1:30 a.m., some four and a half hours after the crash, her heart stopped.
A retired surgeon, Richard Rooney had held hundreds of lives in his hands and saved many of them, but there was nothing he could do for his daughter.
“This was the worst experience I’d ever had, but the worst was yet to come,” he said.
Rooney’s grandchildren arrived the next day for what was supposed to be a three-week visit with their aunt Annie as the star attraction. When he told his 11-year-old grandson what happened to his beloved aunt, the boy collapsed to the kitchen floor and sobbed.
Annie’s death has been “a catastrophic tragedy for the family” — “a nightmare that won’t go away,” he said.
Her bedroom and office remain undisturbed with her personal effects in “cluttered, unsorted piles.” Every morning, Rooney said he has to confront the reality that she’s gone.“
For a long time, all I wanted to do was get in the grave with her, as if I could talk to her,” he said.As the Rooneys continue to grapple with their loss, they have turned to political activism in an effort to prevent other families from experiencing what they’ve gone through.
They are pushing for a law — Annie’s Law — that would require all OVI offenders, including first-time offenders, to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. A vehicle outfitted with an ignition interlock device will not start if it detects alcohol on the driver’s breath.Rooney likened traumatic drunken driving deaths to diseases such as small pox or polio.“
Preventing it is much cheaper, simpler and safer than treating the consequences,” he said.Rooney said the bill is on the cusp of being passed by the Ohio House of Representatives. He urged the students to write lawmakers in support of the legislation.
“I’m not here only to tell my story, but to ask for your help,” he said.
Link to article: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:1m3eBawJYTYJ:www.chillicothegazette.com/article/20140423/NEWS01/304230031/Rooney-hopes-daughter-s-legacy-saves-students+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us