MALONE — A Malone native who returned to the north country every summer to visit family was killed earlier this week when the minivan in which he was riding was struck by an alleged drunk driver traveling at roughly 90 mph.
His surviving family is hoping to use his death to warn others about the potentially disastrous consequences of drinking and driving.
Ethan Michael Handly, 15, of Smithfield, N.C., died of injuries he suffered when the minivan was struck from behind by a car driven by Felix Antonio Juarez-Antunez, 34, of Smithfield. Juarez-Antunez, who is in the United States without documentation, was charged with two counts each of felony death by vehicle and felony serious injury by vehicle following the crash, which also claimed the life of the minivan’s driver, according to multiple media reports.
Juarez-Antunez was reportedly driving 110 mph in a 45 mph zone seconds before he slammed into the minivan. He attempted to brake but was still traveling at 90 mph when the car hit the van. Police said he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.
Ethan’s death has hit his relatives extremely hard, said his aunt, Michelle Oakes of Brasher Falls.
“This is a hurt like we’ve never experienced,” she said. “This whole thing’s just horrific.”
Ethan, who was born in Malone and lived in Watertown before settling in North Carolina, “had an immense personality” and loved to be surrounded by friends and family, Oakes said. He was particularly close to his cousin Ryan, with whom he stayed when returning to the North Country over the summer, she said.
He was also a gifted athlete, with special skills as a pitcher, she said.
Ethan was also known for his generosity, and even in death he wanted to help others. His organ donations have already saved five lives and helped several others, according to his obituary, which will appear in Monday’s edition of The Telegram.
The family wants to follow Ethan’s example, Oakes said. In lieu of flowers, Ethan’s mother, Marilee Patterson, has asked that people who want to honor her son make donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Oakes said.
“Without Ethan, our mission is to get the word out that drunk driving is a choice,” she said. The crash that killed her nephew was not an accident, but the result of someone’s conscious decision to ignore the law and put other people at risk, she said.