Leigh Mingus writes: I lost my only child/best friend 4 years ago as a passenger in a car with a texting driver.
Meet McKinsey. McKinsey was not just my only child, she was my best friend. She was an A-B Honors student, a CNA, and had just started classes to begin pursuing her path to becoming an RN. She had hoped to become a pediatric oncologist some day and was brilliant enough to have done so.
On January 19, 2016, Kinsey had gotten the night off work due to her patient being transferred to a nursing home. Kinsey’s boyfriend was at work and she wanted to go have some time out with a friend. Most of her closest friends were at work or lived pretty far away. Kinsey had recently reconnected with a girl she befriended during her sophomore year of high school that was nothing but trouble. This girl got pregnant right before their senior year of high school and dropped out. She had always been a brainless nitwit troublemaker who had never experienced a consequence for her careless, senseless, selfish, and stupid actions and I had never liked her or wanted my daughter around her. On this particular late afternoon, Kinsey drove to this girl’s house to hang out. The girls took the baby who was now 18 months old to the park. The friend wanted to surprise me by bringing the baby to my house to meet me. The kids hung out at my house about 45 minutes.
They left about 7:15 p.m. About 10 minutes after they left, this feeling came over me that I had never had before…. Kinsey seemed ‘off kilter.’ I texted her to see if she was ok, then remembered her phone was dying. I went about my evening, shampooing where she had tracked some mud in my house, and working in my office.
A couple hours later I started seeing where Highway 73 was shut down and there had been a wreck on the Mecklenburg county side of the Lincoln bridge. “One dead and 4 rushed to hospital, one is a baby.” My first thought was, “Oh my God. That poor family. It’s 3 weeks after Christmas.” My heart sunk. Then I thought, “they had a baby with them.” Then I told myself they weren’t going that way. The story repeated multiple times on the news. I texted Kinsey, “Please tell me you are safe!” She knew when this text came through that I would start reaching out to everyone I knew she could be around. No reply. Once again, I knew her phone was dying when she got to my house.
I reached out to her boyfriend, not knowing he couldn’t respond until after midnight. I texted his mom the same text I sent him about there being a wreck and I was scared.
A couple hours later, my doorbell rang. My doorbell never rang and especially after 11:00 at night. I peeked through the sidelight blinds to see a Mecklenburg county police badge. I shook my head no as the officers told me to open the door and let them in. I said, “I saw it on the news.” I guess my brain was already trying to protect me. If I didn’t open the door, I didn’t have to hear anything. I finally opened the door. The first officer told me there had been an accident. All I could say was “Please tell me she’s ok.”
He asked me if I am Kinsey’s mother. He then asked me what I could tell him about my daughter to which I replied: “She’s my daughter. She’s beautiful. Please tell me she’s ok.” He then asked, “Where were her tattoos and what did they say?” All I could think was that he used past tense and not everyone’s tattoos say something. I fumbled trying to figure out what one of her tattoos said. I finally muttered something about it, to which he replied, “She didn’t make it”.
I was told the driver “is probably going to pass too.” I didn’t know at the time she was texting and driving. The owner of the car (the driver’s baby’s daddy) was friends with my daughter’s boyfriend. He called my daughter’s boyfriend in the wee hours of the morning after the wreck. He was crying because the driver was having to go into surgeries and they didn’t think she was going to make it. My daughter’s boyfriend asked him what happened. He said, “I passed the girls in Denver in my car. I was pissed and wanted my car home. I texted (the driver) and told her she’d better get her f#&king ass home right now. The texts stopped when the wreck happened.”
The driver lived and was in the hospital a day shy of 4 months. Our tax dollars paid for her to have over 30 surgeries and be taken care of in the hospital all this time. She is resuming normal life at this point… with her son who started Kindergarten this past fall. He was 18 months old at the time of the wreck and I watched my daughter buckle him in behind her the night of the wreck when they were leaving my house.
Kinsey was one of the last four living blood relatives I had left at the time. Kinsey was the one who was with me during times like this. What was I going to do without her? My mini me. The one by my side since the day she was born on February 27, 1996. She was my ride or die. I had no one else. I had been divorced for a while at the time and she was my rock. It hasn’t been easy and I have thought every form of suicide completely through at times, only wishing I had the nerve to do it. All I wanted was to be with my baby.
“Please share this with your children. Let them know they are not invincible when they are driving or riding with friends.”
Fast forward to a year and 4 days after the wreck… the driver’s court date. I couldn’t go to court as I would have gone to jail for attempting to kill her. She took a plea to reckless driving, was sentenced to 12 months unsupervised probation, and ordered to pay me restitution for the funeral which was almost $19,000. I have yet to receive a penny…. and never got an apology, a respect paid by any family member of either party at the funeral, no card, no plant, NOTHING! Once again, no consequences for the selfish, senseless, and stupid actions due to this waste of oxygen!
Distracted driving is illegal, but not yet punishable by NC law. These kids were messaging on Facebook messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp, etc. They were not using the text app on the iPhone. I saw the phone records. The ADA and detectives did tell me they had enough evidence to know she was distracted and they pushed for the maximum punishment. There was no punishment that was strict enough in my eyes, nor will there ever be!
I feel it is my place to keep Kinsey’s memory alive. As painful as it is to share this story, Kinsey deserves nonetheless. Beginning last year, on Kinsey’s birthday, I go to Raleigh to share my story to help get a Hands Free Bill passed for all of us here in North Carolina. Our grass roots efforts were to begin on April 14 this year, but have now been postponed. I will be there doing my part once sessions pick back up. I have been on the news a few times and was asked by an NBC reporter in Charlotte to speak to some teenagers she interviewed about texting and driving last year. This same lady also called me back in to do a podcast that is now on Spotify. Please feel free to google my name and McKinsey Pleasants to view these pieces online.
I hope that our story encourages you to put your phones away in the car. Please share this with your children. Let them know they are not invincible when they are driving or riding with friends. Please let them know they can be a designated texter for their friends if something is so urgent. Otherwise, they need to ask the driver to pull over and they need to call you or an Uber! If you can put your phones away for ONE day, you can do it for a week. After a week, you can go without it for a month. After a month, you can go without it for a year. I lived without a phone in my car for over 30 years and everything could wait. NOTHING is more important than the lives on the road! I always assume EVERYONE is driving distracted, even when walking my dogs around the community. These kids driving golf carts or walking in the roads need to assume the same thing!
Please don’t drive distracted! In honor of Kinsey, a friend of mine who was hit while cycling, made shirts with the first sentence of my saying on it, “DISTRACTED DRIVING KILLS INNOCENT PEOPLE AND DESTROYS LIVES!!!! IT… CAN… WAIT!!!!”
Please take the AT&T distracted driving pledge online and make your kids do the same. I had been traveling to speak to driver’s ed classes around my area before I moved. I had finally gotten just to mentally and emotionally exhausted to continue doing it when one of the students asked me how it felt to see my daughter in a casket. Well, I wanted to be buried in that casket with her. I will resume speaking to driver’s ed classes again. I had to take a break.
Another reason for this post is to let you know that parents intuition is always right. If you have a bad feeling about someone your child has befriended, please act upon it!
Will all readers please be aware that we offer free, permanent memorial pages for any people killed in road crashes in the USA, at any point in automotive history. If you wish to create a page for a loved one or dear friend, please simply Contact Us at Road Safety USA.
If you knew McKinsey or you know her mother Leigh, please feel free to add comments to this page (see below).