Family recounts Thanksgiving tragedy after 2015 DUI crash

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The Bowens know all too well how quickly a life can change due to tragedy. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Bowens know all too well how quickly a life can change due to tragedy. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Ella Bowen was killed in a DUI crash on Thanksgiving two years ago. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Ella Bowen was killed in a DUI crash on Thanksgiving two years ago. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
"It was pretty devastating and hard to get through," Danielle said. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) "It was pretty devastating and hard to get through," Danielle said. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The National Safety Council estimated more than 400 people will be killed in car crashes nationwide between Wednesday and Sunday over Thanksgiving, and a third of those crashes will involve an impaired driver.

One family knows all too well how quickly a life can change due to tragedy.

Two years ago, the Bowens had just celebrated Thanksgiving in Chandler.

"There was a date when it happened but we kind of think about it as the Sunday after Thanksgiving," Elton Bowen said.

On Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, Danielle Bowen was taking her mom, Ella, to her dance class in her new car. They were hit by an impaired red-light runner.

"Ella wasn’t a large person, so she was thrown out of her seatbelt into the backseat," Elton said. "All of the glass was out the back was pretty much crushed."

"It was pretty devastating and hard to get through," Danielle said. "It still is."

The driver who killed Ella pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and the other charges were dropped. Elton said he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Danielle tries to focus on the good times.

"She was always really happy and her laugh was really funny," Danielle said about her mom.

Arizona already has some of the toughest DUI laws around. Now, the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council is getting a $20,218 grant for DUI training.

"Everything changes, new methods, ways of prosecuting cases, etc.," said Alberto Gutier with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, who awarded the grant. It will go toward a three-day Advanced DUI training course.

"They need to know all the things involved in training for our officers, so when they go to trial or they are prosecuting a case, they have the right information," Gutier said.

Gutier shares the Bowens' plea to the public. 

"People over-celebrate sometimes and they don't understand that it's great to celebrate, but it's so easy to call a designated driver," Gutier said.

"Make smart choices and think about what they're doing before they do it," Danielle said.

She now does a lot of volunteer work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"All of our lives were different in just a few minutes," Elton said.

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

Click to learn more about Lindsey

Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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