CLEARFIELD – Although he only briefly served the Pennsylvania State Police, Trooper Kenton E. Iwaniec continues to make an impact nearly two years after his tragic death.
Kenton graduated from the State Police Academy in December 2007. He was then assigned to the Avondale Barracks in Chester County. Three months later on March 27, 2008, he finished his shift and was on his way home on Route 41.
He’d only driven two miles from the barracks, when his Hyundai Sedan was struck head-on by an impaired driver in a Chevy Tahoe at 10:15 p.m. He was flown to Christiana Hospital in Delaware, where he passed away during surgery two hours later, his family wrote on his memorial webpage.
The woman who operated the Chevy Tahoe had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.34 percent, which was four times the legal limit. In addition, she had 40 nanograms of Oxycodone in her system.
She struck Kenton’s personal vehicle while traveling at approximately 73 miles per hour in a 45 miles per hour zone with her headlights off. She had her 4-year-old son in the backseat of her vehicle.
On Kenton’s webpage, his family – Ken, Debby, Acacia, Michael, Sashonna, Theron, and Ashley – vowed to not only bring justice to drunken driving victims, but also to keep the fallen state trooper’s memory alive.
The Iwaniec family has established a memorial fund in their son’s name. They use all collected proceeds from both fundraisers and donations for drunken driving prevention programs.
As part of their effort, they hope to place a personal breathalyzer in the hands of each state trooper who graduated with Kenton. They would also like to supply a breathalyzer unit to each of Pennsylvania’s 81 barracks.
The Iwaniec family has currently donated 15 breathalyzer units to the Pennsylvania State Police. These units cost $500 each, according to the family’s memorial webpage.
Trooper Robert Straw, of the Clearfield State Police, said they appreciate the help of the Iwaniec family. He said they have turned a tragedy into a positive work. He said the breathalyzer units will help state troopers identify drunken drivers.
“People can be under the influence of alcohol. But they can also appear not to be (impaired),” he explained. He said these units give them the means to obtain accurate blood alcohol concentration levels.
According to Straw, every state police barracks is different. He said some barracks only have one or two of these breathalyzer units available. He said they currently have about four at the Clearfield station.
Straw said there were more than 12,000 fatalities that involved alcohol-impaired motorists nationwide in 2009. He said that Pennsylvania accounted for more than 500 of those fatalities.
“That’s a lot. Those are just deaths,” he said. He said drunken driving accidents, which resulted in injuries only, were not included in the numbers. “We already have a couple thousand (drunken driving) fatalities nationally. And, we’re only three months into the year.”
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, there were 37,261 people who died in accidents in the United States in 2008. These statistics also indicated an estimated 11,773 were killed in alcohol-impaired driving accidents.
Drunken driving fatalities accounted for 32 percent of all traffic deaths in 2008. On average, someone was killed in an alcohol-impaired accident every 45 minutes in the United States, according to the NHTSA.
Further, Pennsylvania saw 1,468 traffic accident fatalities in 2008. Of those, 496 (34 percent) fatalities involved someone who was alcohol-impaired. In 2007, the state accounted for 1,491 total fatalities and 504 (34 percent) alcohol-impaired fatalities.
On Saturday, March 27, the Iwaniec family will continue their fight toward the reduction of drunken driving. They will host a fundraiser on the two-year anniversary of their son’s tragic accident.
Their event “TakeOff: Honor the Past, Shape the Future” is a 5K Race/1-Mile Walk in memory of Kenton. It will get under way with registration at 7:30 a.m. and the race to follow at 9 a.m. at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe.
All proceeds will go to the purchase of breathalyzers for the Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the Commonwealth.
On his memorial webpage, the Iwaniec family spoke very highly of Kenton. They said he had a compassionate heart and loved his friends, family, God, and country.
“In a few simple words, Kenton lived to serve. He was born with a rare fire, he knew there was something bigger than himself, and he was willing to give his life to protect it,” they wrote.