Powerful message

Crash survivor discusses importance of choices

Bailey Wind, one of the two survivors of the Dec. 1, 2012 car crash on the Northway tells her story to Northville Central School District students Monday. Behind her is the wrecked vehicle after the crash in which her boyfriend, Chris Stewart, and her friend, Deanna Rivers, died, and one other survivor, Matt Hardy. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

NORTHVILLE — Bailey Wind, who is one of the two survivors in a fatal car crash that occurred on the Northway on Dec. 1, 2012, spoke with Northville Central School District students Monday about the accident and the choices people make.

Wind’s boyfriend, Chris Stewart, and her friend Deanna Rivers died in the accident that critically injured her and the second survivor, Matt Hardy.

“Somebody made all the wrong choices and his wrong choices are why I’m standing in front of all you today,” Wind told the students.

The night of the accident, the four went to a Siena basketball game and then stopped at Wind’s house so she could inform her parents she would be staying at Rivers’ house for the night. From Wind’s house, Stewart was driving his SUV to head to Rivers’ house.

“I don’t really remember a lot about leaving my house that night,” Wind said. “I do remember being in the driveway getting into the car, and that night I never knew that was the last time Chris will pull out of my driveway and drive out of my neighborhood ever.”

They were heading toward Exit 8 when they were hit from behind by a drunk driver, Dennis Drue. The truck ended up skidding across three lanes and hit the median causing them to flip three times before hitting trees, roof first. Wind said Stewart and Rivers both died immediately. Rivers had been ejected and Hardy was partially ejected from the truck.

“When paramedics came to the scene they thought there was only three victims and those three victims were Deanna, Chris and Matt because I was no where in sight,” Wind said.

She explained how she somehow slipped under her seatbelt and was thrown under her seat and the dashboard was wrapped around her like a cocoon. She said she was stuck in that position for two hours unable to move.

“I found out recently from one of the people that saved my life that my arm was stuck between Chris’s body and the truck and they had surgeons on the scene ready to amputate my arm, but I was somehow able to slip through near minutes from [them] amputating my arm,” Wind said.

She suffered a broken neck, broken jaw and was inches away from being paralyzed. She has had over 10 mouth surgeries, neck surgery and jaw surgery.

Not only did Wind speak about the crash and how it was an example of the dangers of drinking and driving or texting and driving, but she also talked about her hardships after the crash.

Wind said to this day she still suffers from depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. Although she did graduate from Shaker High School, she did not get to finish her senior year of high school. Wind said she had tutors come to her house everyday.

“Mentally and physically, I am still not the same after five years, but I can say this is genuinely the happiest I’ve been in five years,” Wind said.

A week before the car accident, Wind had signed a letter of intent for a scholarship for diving. She had been diving since she was nine and after the accident she had to make the decision not to dive anymore because of her injuries.

“I felt like that was something else that was taken away from me that I worked so hard for, for so many years,” Wind said.

Wind was also bullied a lot after the accident happened. She showed some of the cruel tweets people had said on Twitter.

“Be kind to everyone, even if you dislike someone, just be kind to them because you really don’t know what they’re going through,” Wind said.

Drue was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in state prison and is serving his time at Collins Correctional Facility, a medium security prison in Erie County. He is eligible for parole this summer. He did have prior convictions before the accident and Wind said “he shouldn’t even have been on the road.”

Wind said she thinks he should have gotten a longer prison sentence.

Since the crash, Wind has presented and told her story of the crash to over 40 high schools. She attended the University of Tennessee, where she graduated in May. She will soon begin her new job in Nashville, Tenn. where she will be working with highway safety offices and doing campaigns about drinking and driving. Wind has also written a book called, “Save Me a Spot in Heaven,” which is about her relationship with Stewart and Rivers along with Stewart’s relationship with Wind’s family.

Wind said writing her book was very therapeutic. She said it first started out as a journal.

Once Wind finished her presentation, students and staff were able to ask Wind any questions they might have had. Although uncomfortable to speak on certain topics, she did her best to answer all questions.

Wind said the hardest part about speaking to schools about the car accident is reliving it and remembering every detail about it.

She said she often finds that people don’t take drunk driving or something such as her accident seriously.

“I feel that it’s just something looked over lightly and people don’t know how serious it is and how much it can affect someone’s life,” Wind said.

What she hopes people take from her story is they learn from what she’s been through.

“I’d rather help one person than nobody at all,” Wind said.

“You only get one life and you need to use it to make the right choices because Chris and Deanna never get to come back,” she said.

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