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'Tree of Life' marks N.C. traffic deaths

Posted December 3, 2010

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— A Christmas tree at the state Capitol isn't a festive sign of the holiday season but a somber reminder of tragedy.

The Governor's Highway Safety Program is presenting a "Tree of Life" on the lawn of the Capitol.

The tree was lit on Friday with 1,346 lights, representing the number of people who died in vehicle crashes on North Carolina roads in 2009.

Most of the lights are white, but 394 of them are red, for the number of fatalities linked to alcohol.

"One of those lights is a family member," said Beth Horner, of the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

During the ceremony, Kristin Knutson, of Raleigh, spoke about the August 2009 wreck that killed her friend, 28-year-old Eddie Ogburn. She was a passenger in Ogburn's vehicle when it was involved in a wreck with an impaired driver on Old Wake Forest Road in Raleigh in August 2009. 

"All of a sudden, out of nowhere, there was a load bang," Knutson said.

Knutson said she tried to help Ogburn but he didn't respond.  "I kept talking to him, telling him everything was going to be OK," she said. 

"I felt like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest," Knutson said.

Web only: Raleigh woman recalls crash that killed friend Web only: Raleigh woman recalls crash that killed friend

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said he has heard too many stories like Knutson's. 

Police around the state will be conducting stepped up checkpoints and patrols starting Friday as part of the safety program's "Booze It and Lose It" campaign.

"We don't want to mess up anybody's party, but we don't want to mess up anybody's life either," Harrison said. 

Web only: Raleigh woman recalls crash that killed friend Web only: Raleigh woman recalls crash that killed friend

The tree will be on display through Jan. 3.

Another "Tree of Life" was lit on Friday in front of the Fayetteville Police Department. 

15 Comments

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  • simmian72 Dec 3, 2010

    I never said it wasn't a nice gesture. the name just seems a little misleading.

  • all4him Dec 3, 2010

    Who cares what the tree is called?!?! I think that it's a nice gesture of remembering those who were tragically killed in traffic accidents no matter how the accidents happened! Also, why does everyone have to make everything about politics!! I mean come on... get a life and enjoy it!!!

  • 2gurlz2boyzMom Dec 3, 2010

    simmian72 If the "tree of life" only has lights on the tree corresponding to people who have died, should it really be "tree of death"? i mean seriously.

    Really?
    My husband died because someone hit and killed him. The tree is celebrate LIFE.

  • lovinlife2010 Dec 3, 2010

    Those are STAGGERING numbers! I had no IDEA!

  • godnessgracious Dec 3, 2010

    the majority of lights are white meaning alcohol was not involved. So the idea that it is honoring only those killed by drunk drivers is clearly false.

  • miraclemethodtriangle Dec 3, 2010

    The tree honors the LIFE of the person that died during a crash. The name "Tree of Life" is appropriate.

  • calsnana6 Dec 3, 2010

    I wonder the thinking of some of the comments .. The Tree of Life is to honor the persons that have lost their lives or have been injured from a DRUNK Driver that had a choice to get behind the wheel. The person injured or murdered by a DRUNK Driver did not have a choice.

  • simmian72 Dec 3, 2010

    If the "tree of life" only has lights on the tree corresponding to people who have died, should it really be "tree of death"? i mean seriously.

  • timbo10.0 Dec 3, 2010

    Yeah, maybe they should start searching people's houses without warrants or probable cause. You know, it would cut down crime.

  • Bill of Rights Dec 3, 2010

    According to their stats, over 29% of traffic fatalities were linked to alcohol. *Any* alcohol-related traffic fatality is substantial.

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