You might think that Robin Abel would get tired of telling the story about how her daughter was critically injured and blinded when a piece of furniture fell off a rented trailer, broke apart and a part of it bounced through her daughter's windshield.
You might think that Robin Abel would get tired of telling the story about how her daughter was critically injured and blinded when a piece of furniture fell off a rented trailer, broke apart and a part of it bounced through her daughter’s windshield.
It’s a story about a preventable accident with an unhappy ending, a story that often moves her, and her listeners, to tears.
But Abel doesn’t get tired of telling that story. In fact, doing so has become her mission.
“I cry everyday, but I know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I know without a doubt that I am saving lives,” she said.
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Because of Abel and her refusal to stop telling the story, the state now has a law — known as Maria’s Law, named for Abel’s daughter, Maria Federici, — that criminalizes a person’s failure to properly secure a load when an injury or death results.
Because of her, thousands of citations for unsecured loads are issued at waste-disposal sites where only handfuls were issued before.
Because of her, she says, people now know to move away from a truck or a trailer that is loaded in a hazardous fashion.
Abel has written a book called “Out of Nowhere” that details what happened to her daughter, what she’s learned since then and what she hopes to accomplish next.
She has her sights set on federal legislation, which she hopes will prevent others from suffering similar fates.
Abel was asleep at her home on Lake Kathleen in Renton on Feb. 22, 2004, when she got a call from Harborview Medical Center.
Her daughter, then 24 and a graduate of the University of Washington, had been injured in an accident and was not expected to survive.
Federici had been driving home on Interstate 405 when a piece of wood flew “out of nowhere,” through the windshield of her Jeep and sheared off her face.
During the long course of her daughter’s recovery, the seven reconstructive surgeries, the countless hours of physical therapy and a grueling civil lawsuit against both the man who had been towing the trailer and the company that designed it, Abel learned details about the accident.
According to police, an entertainment center fell out of a rented U-Haul trailer onto I-405 in front of Federici, and a part of it had struck her windshield.
The man who had rented the trailer had been moving all day and was tired when he made his last load, Abel writes in her book.
He didn’t stop at the scene and was later tracked down by police through a fingerprint found on the board.
At the time, there was no law addressing the consequences of poorly secured load. The man was cited for a traffic infraction and fined.
There was nothing else prosecutors could do, Abel says in her book.
It was then that former King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng encouraged Abel to fight for the law that would change that.
“Norm told me to tell my story, to keep it personal and that people would care,” she said. “And he was right. I know that after people hear me talk, they will never look at the road the same way again.”
Maybe, she said, they take the time to secure their own loads a little more carefully. Maybe, they talk to a neighbor who’s filling up a pickup. Maybe, they avoid an improperly secured load.
“We can’t just leave this up to law enforcement. It really has to be all of us,” she said. “I tell people to secure their load as if the people they love will be driving behind them.”
Abel will be speaking and reading from the book, which she wrote with author Peggy Sturdivant, at a number of upcoming local events, including:
• 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, at the Renton Fall Festival at Piazza Park at Third and Burnett avenues.
• Tuesday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m., at Third Place Books at 17171 Bothell Way N.E. in Lake Forest Park.
• Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2-7 p.m. at the Kirkland Farmer’s Market at Marina Park, 25 Lakeshore Plaza Drive.
• Friday, Oct. 29, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Renton Safeway at 4300 N.E. Fourth St.
• Friday, Nov. 19, 6:30-9 p.m. at the Old Renton Book Exchange at 227 Wells Ave. S.
For more information on the events and Abel’s book, www.outofnowherethebook.com.She can be reached at 425-430-8204.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org