Teenage victim is recovering after horrific crash that killed drunk driver
IDAHO FALLS – As 16-year-old Kade Dalling looked down at his speedometer, he saw he was going 80 mph. But from that point on, all he remembers is the sound of loud crashing and metal scraping across the pavement.
The next thing he knew, he was trapped upside down in his pickup in the middle of Interstate 15.
His mother, Kelsee Dalling, remembers the night crystal clear, as it would turn out to be one of the worst of her life.
The crash occurred on June 8, when Kade was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Since then, his family has been trying to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving.
On the day of the crash, the Dalling family had attended a cross-fit class in Rexburg. After class, Kelsee’s husband Derek, and their son Kade, left the class to drive to Idaho Falls, to pick up a truck that had been getting worked on at a repair shop.
“Kade was dropping off my husband, and then he was going to follow him back home to Hamer,” says Kelsee, who stayed in Rexburg to finish up her workout. “Kade happened to take a wrong turn and then he got stuck at a stoplight, so he got a little bit behind his Dad.”
Derek, Kade’s Dad, was heading northbound, and noticed a driver pass him in the passing lane, going the wrong direction. Worried for the safety of other drivers, he called 911 to report it, and then called his son to warn him.
Kade didn’t answer.
“(Derek) called me, and said, “Hey, I need you to get on your (tracking) app and see where Kade’s location is at because he’s not answering his phone, and a guy just passed me on 1-15 going the wrong way. I just want to make sure Kade is okay and he didn’t hit him,” Kelsee says. “So I get on the app while I’m talking to my husband, and I look and I just said, “Um Derek, it says he’s stopped in the middle of I-15.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 32 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes every day — one person every 45 minutes.
Kade was almost a part of that statistic.
According to Kelsee, she jumped in her car, called her dad, and immediately asked him to start praying for her son.
“While I was talking to my dad, I got a phone call from one of our neighbors, and when I saw that phone call come through, I thought, okay, something is wrong,” says Kelsee. “My mind went right to “oh my gosh, my son is dead.” And I just cried and said, “Please just tell me my son is okay,” and he said, “He’s talking,” and that was just the best thing I’ve heard.”
The driver had continued going the wrong way on I-15 until he collided with Kade, both pickup trucks going about 80 mph. Kade’s pickup was flipped upside down on I-15, and he became trapped inside the vehicle, dangling upside down.
“My husband was there when I finally got to the wreck. I could see the cops and my son’s pickup upside down, and I could not breathe. I had no idea what condition my son was in, other than I knew he could talk,” says Kelsee. “It was going through my mind that maybe he‘s paralyzed, or maybe he’s not going to be the same person he was before.”
As Kelsee pulled off to the side of the road, anxious to get to her son’s side, another neighbor of the family who had seen the wreck and stopped to help pulled her aside, embraced her and told her to wait for law enforcement and emergency personnel to help her son before she rushed over.
“She said, “Don’t go over there,” and I said, “No, my son needs me,” and she said, “Just stay with me, I want you to pray with me,” says Kelsee. “So we knelt down on I-15, and we said prayer after prayer, and she just kept me calm the whole time.”
The two helpful neighbors had recently been victims of tragedies of their own. According to Kelsee, the neighbor who called her had lost his daughter in a car accident a few years prior. The woman who held her had just lost both her husband and son, burying them together just a week before Kade’s accident.
“Here they are, out on I-15, praying and comforting me,” says Kelsee. “And she had just buried her son and husband less than a week before that. But she was just rock solid for me.”
Out on the road, Derek, Kade’s Dad, managed to get to his son, lying on the ground of the upside-down pickup, holding his son up as he lay dangling and afraid.
“I heard my son scream, and it was just so hard. As moms, we’re helpers, and we’re fixers, and in that moment, there was nothing I could do. I tried sneaking away from my neighbor again, and she just held me tighter and said to be patient,” says Kelsee.
Finally, officials were able to extricate Kade from the vehicle and get him onto a stretcher. Kelsee was able to see her son.
“I finally hurried over there to him, and I ran my fingers through his hair and just told him how much I loved him. At this point, he was pretty strong and pretty tough and hadn’t shed a tear or anything, but as soon as I got to him, he shed some tears,” says Kelsee.
On the way to the hospital in an ambulance, Kelsee asked the driver if the other guy was okay. The driver replied that the other man had died.
“At the time, I was so mad just to see my son in such pain. We got to the ER, and the first thing he says to me is “Mom, I feel so bad that that guy lost his life,” and I said, “I know, but it’s not your fault.” And at the time, that just made me feel so selfish because here I am, not caring, and he’s tenderhearted and feeling terrible inside that this has happened to this other guy.”
Kade suffered a broken femur and had surgery the next day to place a permanent metal rod in his leg from his hipbone to his knee. His mother says that their summer was full of Kade being bedridden, learning to use crutches and many physical therapy appointments. Kade has regained his ability to walk, and recently completed his physical therapy.
Recently, after coming to terms with the tragic event and processing it, the family decided to seek out the DUI reports for the man who had crashed into Kade. According to the official DUI report, the drunk driver, Jeff Powell, had a blood-alcohol level of five times more than the legal limit.
The Dalling family is thankful to have their son alive and recovering. But he will have lasting consequences from the crash.
“Many mothers have shared their stories of heartache and loss due to drunk driving. I’m so thankful that I am not a mother who has a story of loss,” says Kelsee. “Please be considerate of the innocent lives of others before you drink and get behind a wheel. It’s such a selfish and careless act. It’s not fair to those who just want to get home to see their families, those who have big plans and dreams for life, those who matter so much to those who love them.”