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Candlelight vigil somber reminder that Berkeley Co. leads the state in DUI-related fatalities

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MONCKS CORNER, SC (WCSC) -

A candlelight vigil to remember those killed by drunk and drugged drivers was held Tuesday night in Berkeley County. In 2012, there were 358 alcohol-impaired deaths in South Carolina.

Hugs and tears as survivors, loved ones, law enforcement and the community took part in the 25th Annual Candlelight Vigil in Moncks Corner.

"Something can happen in a split second that changes the rest of their lives, the families' lives,” says Kelly DeHay, whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver seven years ago. “It affects so many people beyond themselves."

Organized by the Ernest E. Kennedy Center, families shared their stories of immense loss, including Treva Zoll, who lost her sister three years ago after she was hit by a driver under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

"It amazes me that I still randomly think of funny things, and I go to pick up the phone and want to call her, and then it hits me like a ton of bricks, I can't. I can't talk to her ever again."

Gene Reese, a father of five, was on his way home from work, when a drunk driver plowed into him. While it happened more than two decades ago, Reese says the moments before are still lucid.

"Just about a mile away from my house, this car was speeding in my direction, running so fast around this curb, he couldn't straighten up. He was running between 80 to 90 miles an hour, and he drifted off into my lane and ran into my car head-on."

According to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, within the last year, deputies have made 129 DUI arrests. Those involved in the fight say progress is being made through enforcement and education, but they say the responsibility lies with the individual.

"It's an individual choice,” says Danny Johnson with the Berkeley County Prevention Board. “If you choose to drink and drive, we will take you off of the highway."

"An accident can't be prevented,” says DeHay. “The decision to drive impaired is a conscious decision."

On Thursday, MADD or Mothers Against Drunk Driving will hold a vigil at the Criminal Justice Academy Gymnasium in Columbia at 6:30 p.m.

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