MADD candlelight vigil honors Berkshire County victims of drunken driving

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Photo Gallery | Mothers Against Drunk Driving Vigil and Remembrance

PITTSFIELD — At 16 years-old, Lindsey Ferrell loved being a cheerleader and worked hard on anti-smoking campaigns. The very active Dalton teenager was greatly loved by her family — and still is — when a drunken driver took her life nearly 14 years ago.

For Mary Ferrell, Lindsey lives through her and she finds only close family and friends now willing to mention her daughter by name.

"For most, the spotlight is gone, but the play will never end as the effect [of Lindsey] on my life is endless," she said.

Ferrell's heartfelt remembrance was delivered during Sunday's annual candlelight vigil in honor of the Berkshire residents who have died at the hands of drunken drivers.

Dozens gathered at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church to shine a light on the 50 sons, daughters, mothers and fathers all victims of drunken driving.

The vigil organized by the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, began in 1988 to call attention to the deadly consequences of drinking alcohol and getting behind the wheel. DA David Capeless noted the ceremony of remembrance and hope is appropriately held during the holiday season.

"The reading of the names and the lighting of the candles is the one gift we can give to those not here," he said.

As Capeless read each victim's name, friends and/or relatives of the deceased approached the array of candles in front of the church altar, lighting them in silence. If no one came forward, either Sgt. Brian Berkel or Trooper Jean Thibodeau, of the Massachusetts State Police, did the honors. Capeless lit the final candle on behalf of Joyce Wrend, the mother of Alison Wrend, of North Adams, who was killed in 1990.

Kathryn Dufour and her husband traveled from Arizona to light a candle for their daughter Erin, killed in 2010 when a drunken driver hit her car in Sandisfield.

"For no one knows the heartache ... the number of time I've broken down and cried," Kathryn Dufour said in a brief remarks during the vigil.

Since MADD was formed 35 years ago, alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths have steadily declined in Massachusetts from a peak of 411 in 1988 to an average of 136 the last five years — a 67 percent decline over that period according to the National Highway Safety Administration.

Nevertheless, Massachusetts, along with North Dakota and Texas had the highest share of drunk driving fatalities at 41 percent of total traffic deaths in 2014.

The more sobering news of the weekend came from Wall Street 24/7 that released data showing the state — especially Pittsfield — has a significant drinking problem. The website reported nearly one-fifth of Massachusetts adults drink excessively, a higher share than in all but five other states. High rates of heavy and binge drinking are widespread across the commonwealth with Pittsfield leading the way with 21.3% of city adults saying they are heavy drinkers or binge drinking, slightly higher than the state proportion of 19.5% and well above the national share of 15.0%.

Capeless closed Sunday's vigil urging everyone to wear red ribbons, a symbol of remembering victims of drunken driving and a reminder to prevent an intoxicated person from getting behind the wheel.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413 496-6233


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