New Year’s warning from Loomis family touched by tragedy: Don’t drink and drive

Robert Wyatt, 15, was killed by a drunken driver on Auburn Folsom Road in a Dec. 10, 1999 crash
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - With New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday and some people getting Monday off, the odds of over-imbibing and getting behind the wheel during celebrations will increase for many. And that will boost the odds of sober drivers getting into a potentially fatal crash with a drunken driver. Twelve years ago, the Wyatt family of Loomis lost 15-year-old Robert Wyatt when a drunk driver crashed head-on into the truck he was in as the two were heading in different directions on Auburn Folsom Road. It’s a memory that still brings tears to the eyes of Robert’s father, Doug. Robert died in his arms at the accident scene after he rushed to be with his son from their nearby home. “It’s hit me again in the last three or four months,” Doug Wyatt said. “It’s something that never goes away. We learn to live with it better but it doesn’t go away.” Jennifer Wyatt, then 17, was a passenger in the Wyatt truck that night and suffered extensive injuries that continue to require medical care a dozen years later. But the loss of her little brother was a major, life-changing moment, she said. “The message I like to give is that you think drinking and driving is a thrill but think again, it can kill,” Wyatt said. “I don’t want anybody to go through what I’ve been through. It made me a strong person but, wow, it’s been really hard.” Doug Wyatt said that he wants others to know about the impact of a fatal drunken driving crash and is now making plans to share his story with high school students as part of the Every 15 Minutes program. Joshua Sanguinetti, the drunken driver of the vehicle that hit the Wyatt truck, received a seven-year, four-month prison term but served less than three years. Doug Wyatt said that drunken driving laws and the Placer County District Attorney’s Office now take a harder line against perpetrators. The Wyatt family is left to remember a talented baseball player and Del Oro High School student whose life ended too soon on a rural Placer County road in early December. “When the holidays come, it does rattle our cage,” Wyatt said. “There is no right time with it, but this is worse.” Officer Dave Montijo of the California Highway Patrol’s Auburn office said Wednesday that while no checkpoints are scheduled to screen drunken drivers, the holiday weekend is considered a maximum enforcement period. That will mean a higher number than usual of highway patrol officers. Montijo’s advice is to plan ahead if you’re considering drinking alcohol and ensure somebody can give you a ride home. “Have a plan – have somebody available who is looking out for you specifically,” he said. “That’s opposed to thinking you’ll find somebody who will take care of you.” AAA will be offering its Tipsy Tow service for drinking drivers from 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 until 6 a.m. New Year’s Day. And Sierra Cab in Auburn will be operating, with reservations made for times before midnight but rides provided on a first-come-first-serve basis New Year’s morning.