Chris Sandy, who killed a Newton County couple in a drunk driving accident, will team up with Eric Krug, a drunk driving victim who suffers from traumatic brain injury, for a presentation on the consequences of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, set for March 2 at St. Pius X Church. (Special Photo)
CONYERS — At age 22, Chris Sandy took the lives of Nellie and William King, an elderly couple who were grandparents and members of a well-known tight-knit family in Newton County. He didn’t commit the crime with a gun or a knife. Sandy killed the couple with his car, after having four mixed drinks at a party and getting behind the wheel.
Traveling at 77 mph in a 35 mph zone, Sandy crashed his vehicle into the Kings’ car, tearing it in half and trapping them. As Sandy lay there with a dislocated leg, he heard the words that changed his life forever — “There’s a fatality on the scene.”
Mrs. King died on impact. Mr. King succumbed to his injuries later at the hospital.
“This is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life,” said Sandy.
Sandy, now 36, tells the tragic story of his crime about 150 times a year to audiences of teens and young adults in the hope that it will prevent others from making the same decision he made.
“It’s brutal and depressing to do it over and over but the outcome, from what I hear back from the students, is rewarding because they get it, they really relate to it and it’s the biggest reality check they can get,” said Sandy, a Rockdale County resident.
Sandy will visit St. Pius X Catholic Church, 2621 Ga. Highway 20 in Conyers, on March 2 at 7 p.m. to speak about the decision he made on April 11, 2000 to drive drunk. He recounts the details of the party he attended before driving and describes how the accident happened. He talks about his eight and half years spent in prison on two counts of vehicular homicide by DUI.
“People in Rockdale and Newton have told me how amazing and kind Mr. and Mrs. King were as a family, couple, and individuals. I do wish I could take all the pain and suffering back that I caused, but I cannot. That is why I choose to tell my story in the fashion I do. It is about saving lives and preventing tragedies,” said Sandy.
During his presentation, Sandy will be joined by an unlikely partner he met eight years ago — Eric Krug, a victim of drunk driving.
On April 11, 1997, Krug, then a standout baseball player at Oglethorpe University, celebrated his 21st birthday by going out with friends and drinking. He was about to end the night by getting into a cab and going home, but instead got into a car with friends, all of whom, including the driver, had been drinking.
The driver made it to the campus of Oglethorpe, where she crashed into trees, and killed one of the passengers. The accident severed Krug’s right arm and smashed his head into a tree. Doctors re-attached Krug’s arm but could do little to address the head trauma. He remained in a coma for over a year.
Krug now struggles with complications from his traumatic brain injury. He cannot walk or talk. He has short-term memory loss. He communicates with an IPad.
Linda Jesky of the St. Pius Women’s Jail Ministry, which is sponsoring the alcohol and drug awareness presentation by Sandy and Krug, said to expect both laughter and tears at the event, which is free and open to the public.
“This takes a lot of courage for both of them,” said Jesky. “It’s more than drinking and driving; it’s about decisions.”
Sandy began his public speaking effort in 2004, while still incarcerated, through a joint partnership between the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Georgia Department of Corrections. Prison guards escorted Sandy to high schools and other venues where he shared his story of drunk driving and the consequences.
Meanwhile, in 2006 the Krugs, encouraged by a mutual friend, watched one of Sandy’s presentations. Joyce Krug, still struggling with how to forgive the driver of the vehicle who injured her son, decided that a meeting with Sandy might be beneficial to both parties. Eric and Joyce traveled to the prison where Sandy was held and met with him, fully shackled and guarded.
For Krug, the meeting proved to be a revelation.
“Within that 20 minutes, God completely worked me over. I thought, ‘That could have been my son,’” said Joyce Krug.
She forgave Sandy for what he had done, hugged him and reconciled with her emotions.
“He was helping me realize that holding onto anything in the negative was wrong and forgiveness was the stepping stone,” she said.
Sandy admits being fearful of the meeting, but now calls it “a miracle unto itself.”
“We all felt like we had been brought together for a purpose,” he said.
Eric Krug, who had already been traveling and speaking to groups about his experience as a drunk driver crash victim, teamed up with Sandy, who was released on probation in 2009 (he remains on probation until 2031).
Today, Sandy and Krug travel the country delivering their message. They visit churches, middle and high schools, colleges, military bases, conferences and businesses.
Sandy said he believes the speaking engagements are effective. He’s had youths approach him afterwards and tell him that they had plans to go drinking on the weekend but changed the plans after hearing his story.
Sandy said he and Eric don’t lecture students on what and what not to do; they simply tell their stories and let those stories speak for themselves.
“They think nothing is going to happen, but when they hear it from this point of view, they really take to it,” he said.
Joyce Krug, who lives in Gwinnett County with her son, said that the speaking engagement circuit provides a fulfilling career for her Eric, who is limited in how he can make a living because of his disabilities.
“I can tell he wants to help. He says, ‘I can no longer play baseball but I can still help the community not to make the choices I made,’” she said.
She believes God is using him to save others’ lives.
“It happens in the blink of a second and kids need to know and be prepared for their choices and decisions,” she said.
For more information on the event, call Linda Jesky at 770-388-0348. To learn more about Chris Sandy and Eric Krug, visit www.enduringregret.org.