PINEDALE – It’s been almost 17 years since Kerry Shatto’s son, Shane, was killed by a drunk driver with seven of his cross-country teammates from the University of Wyoming.
They were driving back to Laramie from Fort Collins when another University of Wyoming athlete, rodeo team member Clinton Haskins, swerved his truck into the northbound lane on Highway 287 and hit the Jeep the runners were in, killing all eight of them instantly.
“The fire department said they couldn’t have blown the Jeep up more with dynamite,” Shatto said.
Since then, Shatto said he’s given more than 100 talks at victim impact panels and at schools.
“It’s my therapy,” Shatto said. “If I didn’t do it, I’d probably go nuts.”
Shatto was in Sublette County on Tuesday, sharing his son’s story at Big Piney High School and Pinedale High School.
He said talking about his loss has gotten easier “to a point,” but added, “I relive it every time.”
His motivation for speaking to students isn’t hard to understand. “I don’t want somebody else to go through this,” he said. He doesn’t try to convince people never to drink, just to
home safely.do it responsibly and have a plan in place to get
“I don’t preach to abstain,” Shatto said. “My message is if you’re impaired in some way, get a ride. Do it responsibly.”
Speaking about the tragedy is also a way to help his son live on.
It’s obvious from listening to him speak that Shatto was proud of his son.
In high school, Shane wrestled for Douglas. To get better at the sport, he joined the cross-country team. By his senior year, however, Shane wasn’t just running, he started placing at meets and ended the season by winning a state title.
Shane’s dream, however, was to be a Navy pilot. When it was determined that Shane was colorblind, Shane tried to overcome his vision problems, but eventually he had to change his dream. He went to the University of Wyoming to study engineering. He also joined the Air Force’s ROTC program at the school and walked on to Wyoming’s cross-country team.
Shatto remembers all of the hard work Shane put into the sport and he remembers how proud he was to see him running in Wyoming’s brown and gold. The Cowboys’ first meet of 2001 was scheduled at the golf course in Laramie. Watching the race near the finish, he remembers Shane striding to the finish.
Shane ran strong that day and ended up being Wyoming’s No. 2 finisher.
“That was the last time I ever got to see my son run,” Shatto said.
A couple days after the race, terrorists flew planes into New York’s Twin Towers and in the aftermath of the attacks the university canceled its competitions the following week. With an unexpected day off, the runners trained in the morning and then Shane went to Cheyenne and bought a pair of shoes. Him and his teammates then went to Fort Collins to do some more shopping and go dancing.
“He bought shoes that day and he never got to wear them,” Shatto said, holding up the white sneakers for the students to see.
The drunk driver is the only person who survived the accident; he received eight concurrent 14 to 20-year sentences. He served 10 years behind bars.
“My family got life,” Shatto said. “Holidays suck now – there’s an empty seat at the table.”
Shatto was a firefighter because Shane got him involved in it. He said he didn’t go back for a long time and when he finally returned he couldn’t respond to crashes. Eventually Shatto started responded to crashes again, but said his fellow firefighters “watched me ... they still do.”
Shane’s younger brother dedicated his last wrestling seasons to Shane and pointed up to the sky after capturing the high school titles.
“I would have liked it if he could have won for himself,” Shatto said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only three states have a higher rate of deaths for people killed in crashes involving a driver with a BAC of higher than .08 percent. For every 100,000 people in Wyoming, 7.1 died due to a drunk driving accident in 2012. North Dakota led the nation at 11.3, followed by Montana at 9.4 and South Carolina (7.6). Conversely, Colorado’s rate was 2.5, Utah was 1.2, Idaho was 3.6, Nebraska was 4.0 and South Dakota was 5.7.
“The culture in Wyoming has to change,” Shatto said. “Parents have to be better role models for their kids; they think if it’s okay for mom and dad, it’s okay for me.”
Shane was just one of the 13,290 people killed in a drunk driving accident that year.
Now all Shatto can do is reminisce and try to keep other families from feeling his pain.
Shatto will never get to see his son grow up. He’ll never know what Shane could have accomplished if he were still alive and what kind of father he could have been.
Instead, Shane is forever 19 years old