Rhones educate people after drunk-driving death

Samantha Rhone was deep into the grieving process by the time she watched four people go down for crimes related to her big brother’s death.

Samantha Rhone was deep into the grieving process by the time she watched four people go down for crimes related to her big brother’s death.

“I could see their families in the courtroom,” she said. “Everyone was in so much pain. You could see it on their faces and feel it in the room.”

Such is the evil of drinking and driving.

Everyone lost when Damian Scott Mackey downed more than nine drinks and got behind the wheel of his Mazda 626 in the early morning hours June 2.

Nineteen-year-old Steven Rhone was in Bellingham at the time to tell his friends there that Western Washington University had accepted him as a transfer.

He was walking across an intersection with two friends when Mackey blew a stop sign at around 50 mph and struck him with his car.

Steven died of head injuries shortly thereafter.

“As a parent, you try to prepare for that phone call,” said Steven’s father, Steven Sr. “You can’t.”

Mackey pled guilty in October to vehicular homicide and a felony hit-and-run. He’s now in the midst of a 4 ½-year prison term.

The sentence for Steven and his family will last forever.

“The guy who killed him will get out and go about his life,” said Steven’s mother, Sandra. “We don’t have that luxury to go on, because something is missing.”

Still, the healing process has to begin somewhere.

The Rhones started by establishing a scholarship with around $70,000 donated in lieu of flowers after Steven’s death.

The funds help pay for teams and individuals from Washington to attend the national Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) marketing competition each year.

Steven, a 2006 Inglemoor graduate, had been active in the organization during high school.

Samantha followed in his footsteps, and even managed to win second place in the restaurant- and food-services management division at DECA’s national event this year.

“I won that award for both of us,” she said. “He’s the reason I joined the club in the first place.”

Samantha isn’t alone in honoring her brother.

Steven’s childhood friends have dedicated a Redmond basketball court in his name, and the city of Bellingham posted a memorial sign at the intersection where he was killed.

Sandra does her part by raising awareness about the facts behind drinking and driving. She joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and also plans to work on legislation that would require stricter sentencing for people who commit vehicular homicide while under the influence.

“It’s not that having people in jail longer will make me feel any better or worse,” Sandra said.

“It’s about creating a deterrent.”

Inglemoor students will witness the perils of drunk driving when they observe a mock accident during the school’s annual senior assembly May 23. The demonstration involves mangled cars, actors covered in fake blood and an airlift.

Samantha plans to deliver a speech about her brother during the event.

“I want people to feel the pain and understand the pain we feel every day,” she said. “It’s enormous.”