Owen Brezitski carried a crisp dollar bill in his hand and walked with his family across the marked crosswalk outside Bishop McDevitt High School after his sisters’ band concert on St. Patricks Day 2011.
The 8 year old had received the dollar from his grandfather because Owen had been so well-behaved during the concert. He told his family as they crossed the street that he wanted to go to McDonald’s. It was St. Patrick’s Day, after all, and he wanted a Shamrock Shake.
A 17-year-old driver distracted by a teen passenger and music playing over a cell phone drove up the hill, driving about 10 mph over the posted speed limit, and failed to yield to the pedestrians in the crosswalk or notice the group of people who had left the concert and were crossing the street.
The teen drove through the crosswalk without even realizing she had struck Owen. In fact, it wasn’t until she noticed a crowd of people yelling and chasing her that she realized what she had done.
Karen knew the attempts to save her son’s life would likely be in vain. Owen passed away shortly after from his injuries.
“It’s the lost potential that bothers me the most,” said Karen, almost one year after her son’s death. “He was going to be something. He was so loved and so talented.”
The driver who hit Owen shouldn’t have been distracted by music on a cell phone or a teen passenger, and shouldn’t have been speeding. The combination cost an 8-year-old boy his life and sentenced his family to a lifetime of pain.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 8 to 35, and teens are three times as likely to crash as older drivers. Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to crash.
“The police officer [that handled the case] said it was an avoidable incident,” Karen said. “Not an accident.”
Karen, her husband, Mark, and their two daughters, Makenna and Kyla, honored Owen’s memory by raising money for special blinking LED crosswalk signs in front of Bishop McDevitt with the hope that other drivers will see the signs and slow down. They’ve established a nonprofit, Owen’s Foundation, and they decorate their home with his artwork and favorite color – orange.
The Brezitski family also joined the HEARTS Network, a nationwide community of families and victims impacted by teen-related crashes. Through HEARTS, they are sharing Owen’s story and engaging with the Pennsylvania Teen Safe Driving Coalition to advocate for change.
But nothing can bring Owen back.