By Mary Bubala

CARROLL COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — When teens drive drunk, the consequences can be deadly. Carroll County’s Casey Bellofatto nearly died in a fiery crash when she got behind the wheel of her car after a night of heaving drinking.

Mary Bubala tells why Casey’s powerful message could stop other young people from making the same mistake.

January 11, 2013: a night of partying and heavy drinking for Carroll County native Casey Bellofatto. It’s one she can barely remember—and for that, she is lucky.

Casey, an 18-year-old cheerleader and softball player, was behind the wheel of her car after a night of drinking. She was driving along Route 97 in Carroll County when suddenly she slammed head-on into another car and went into a ravine. Her car burst into flames—she was still inside, her legs on fire.

When Howard County Sergeant Craig Ream happened upon the horrific scene, he jumped into action and saved her.

“I had to make a decision to crawl into the vehicle and get her out. Otherwise, she wasn’t going to get out,” Ream said.

Miraculously, Casey lived. But so many other Maryland teens who drink and drive do not. In June of last year, a Montgomery County teenager was driving drunk when he crashed his car, killing two of his friends in the back seat. In 2012, three teenagers died in a wrong-way crash in Anne Arundel County. Police say the 19-year-old driver was under the influence—just some of the more than 1,700 Maryland lives lost in recent years.

“You’re not only risking yourself but you are putting someone else, an innocent person, at risk. I got lucky. I didn’t kill someone else; my life could be totally different,” Casey said.

Casey is lucky to be alive but she paid a devastating price.

“My life went from—in a split second—going out and partying every single night to the next day I’m in the hospital and then no legs and here’s a wheelchair,” she said.

And Casey’s life has new meaning: she’s on a mission to save lives.

“Yeah and you don’t think, especially when you’re young, you don’t think it’s going to happen to you. You never do,” she said.

Now 21, she is teaming up with the very people who saved her life at Shock Trauma, hoping she will do the same for other young people.

Sgt. Ream told WJZ he hopes Casey’s powerful message makes a difference.

“As a teenager, you think nothing can happen to you. You think you are invincible. You think that life is just going to go on forever and that nothing bad will ever happen to you despite whatever decision you make, choice you make and sometimes it’s hard to impress on a young person that bad things can happen—they do happen,” Ream said.

For more on the Shock Trauma Impaired and Distracted Driving program that Casey is involved with, CLICK HERE.


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