Dan Schulte wasn’t sure he wanted to stand in front of dozens of people Tuesday to talk about the day that changed his life. He’s still not used to being a public figure, and it doesn’t feel natural, he said.
But then he thought about his parents, Schulte said, as he spoke to a group gathered a few blocks from the site where they were killed. He realized he couldn’t think of anywhere else he should be.
A year ago Tuesday, a repeat drunken driver at the wheel of his black Chevrolet pickup struck Dennis and Judy Schulte; Dan Schulte’s wife, Karina Ulriksen-Schulte; and their 10-day-old son, Elias, as they crossed a street in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood. The older couple died on impact. Ulriksen-Schulte and Elias were critically hurt.
The driver, Mark W. Mullan, was sentenced to 18½ years in prison in November.
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On Tuesday, family members, friends and Wedgwood residents gathered for the Dennis and Judy Schulte Memorial Walk and Rally to remember the couple. Speakers stressed the need to eliminate impaired-driving tragedies through legislation and personal actions.
Before the rally, participants walked to the crash site, at Northeast 75th Street and 33rd Avenue Northeast, marked with two candles and flowers.
Shortly after the crash, Mullan’s preliminary blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.22 percent, nearly three times the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent. At the time, he was under the supervision of the Seattle Municipal Court because of a previous drunken-driving arrest, and he was supposed to have an alcohol-sensitive ignition lock in his pickup.
He’d never had it installed.
At the rally, three blocks from the accident site, in front of Eckstein Middle School, Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, called the rate of impaired driving “an epidemic,” one that can’t be fixed simply by punishing more people caught driving while impaired. A DUI can no longer be considered socially acceptable, he said.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” Grondel said.
Marilyn Schulte, the daughter of Judy and Dennis Schulte, said her parents “were people who stepped up and helped those in need.” She called for everyone not only to drive sober but to take action when they see impaired drivers.
During his speech, Dan Schulte thanked the first responders and the Seattle medical community, his neighbors and co-workers. He thanked his wife and son, “who inspire me every day to be strong.”
Elias, now just over a year old, suffered skull fractures and a brain injury in the crash. Ulriksen-Schulte suffered a crushed pelvis and later developed blood clots that caused a stroke and led to brain damage. The two are still recovering, Dan Schulte said.
Both are home; Elias had surgery in February and came home March 14.
Dan Schulte paused and then thanked his parents, who showed him how actions can help others, he said.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” he said.
Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or firstname.lastname@example.org