DENHAM SPRINGS, La. — In 2020, across the U.S., nearly 12,000 people were killed in crashes that involved a drunk driver.
For one Denham Springs family, those numbers and statistics don't matter.
What matters is that their son is gone. The crash was late at night on Aug. 5, his only brother's birthday.
“My son, my baby that I lost that I will never get to hold again,” Kelli Hewitt said. “This is where my son lost his life.”
It's a step no parent should ever have to take, one nightmares are made of, putting up a cross to mark the curve in the road where a driver ended the life of their son, and then fled the scene.
“He had a heart of gold. He loved everybody. This is the split in the helmet,” she said.
Kyle Rowland, 26, was on his motorcycle with girlfriend Bale' Boudreaux when state police say Kyle Manno, 23, crossed the center line of Highway 1019 in Denham Springs, in his truck.
Manno was arrested and booked with vehicular homicide and other charges, including an open container.
State police suspect impairment, but toxicology results are not back yet. Bale' is in a Baton Rouge hospital with severe injuries and said Rowland saved her life.
“Nothing’s left on her leg. Bones sticking out. She said, ‘Your son saved my life. He’s a hero. He saved my life.’ She said he actually pushed that bike. She said, ‘All I ever remember is hanging on to him tight. And when we hit, he hit the truck and then hit the windshield and he flew,’” Hewitt said.
Rowland's mom Kelli Hewitt said her late son is a hero for another reason.
He watched her go through 12 years of grueling dialysis and was at her side as a kidney donor saved her life. That's when Rowland became one too.
“It was a 50-year-old man that got the heart, and he had to give him some of the liver. But [they] said the liver could save 14, 15, maybe more live because all they need is a piece,” Hewitt said.
Rowland's four-year-old nephew sleeps with his uncle’s container of ashes. Kelli has a recording of his heartbeat she listens to daily.
The family is getting an attorney. They fear the charges will be reduced. They say no money will bring him back. They just want the man responsible to stay in jail for a long time.
“He should have never been on the road. He should have thought about getting on that road before he did that. And now he’s got to live with that for the rest of his life and my son is dead because of him,” Rowland said.
His girlfriend Bale' was in a ditch for a long time and began waving her phone flashlight, finally getting the attention of a driver, who stopped to help before EMS arrived.
She has a long road to recovery. Rowland's mother says it is unclear if she will be able to walk again.
You can help Bale’ at this GoFundMe page for medical care donations.