By Donna Gordon Blankinship
Seattle — A Seattle man who lost his parents and whose wife and infant son were critically injured by a drunk driver is speaking out against driving under the influence.
Dan Schulte said at a news conference on Tuesday he may decide to devote his life to stopping preventable tragedies like the one that struck his family when they went for a walk in their north Seattle neighborhood less than two weeks after his son was born.
“All of us need to do what we can,” Schulte said, adding that he hopes people will pledge to not drink and drive.
In the meantime, lawmakers in Washington’s state Capitol are debating a proposal to increase jail time for repeat drunken driving offenders and to bar some of them from drinking.
Schulte, who believes the laws need to be tougher, said he was happy people were starting to talk more about it.
“We really want to do our part,” he said, but added that his family was still trying to figure out what that would be.
Mark Mullan, of Seattle, has pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide, vehicle assault and reckless driving in the March 25 crash in which his pickup truck hit four members of the family as they crossed a Seattle street.
The crash killed Schulte’s parents, Dennis and Judith Schulte, retired teachers from Kokomo, who had recently moved to Seattle.
One of the doctors treating Dan Schulte’s wife, Karina Ulriksen-Schulte, and baby, Elias, also spoke passionately on Tuesday about the need to do something about drunken driving.
“I want to take the word accident out of it,” said Dr. Saman Arabbi, who noted that more than half of injuries this severe involve alcohol. “This is a tragedy, but this is not an accident. It was preventable.”
Arabbi and another doctor at the news conference said both patients will have a long road to recovery and it was not clear yet how long that recovery will take or how complete it would be.
Ulriksen-Schulte suffered a major pelvis fracture as well as a head injury, but one of the most difficult parts of her recovery involves a stroke she had within a day of the crash, the doctors said. She has been moved to a hospital rehabilitation center, but the doctors and family members would not say where.
“She has a pretty long road ahead of her,” Dan Schulte said. “There’s a lot of unknowns.”
He said his wife recognizes people and knows who he is, taking baby steps toward her recovery every day.
Elias also is recovering from a brain injury and various other physical injuries. The doctors are watching him closely to see if his development gets back on schedule, but he has been learning to drink from a bottle, while he remains at Seattle Children’s Hospital. They expressed concern about his eyesight.
Dr. Francois P. Aspesberro said after seeing the boy’s condition right after the accident, doctors weren’t sure if he would survive.
“We’ve heard some people say the word miracle,” Dan Schulte said.