GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Marie Bongiovanni lost her son, Drew Piet, in a horrific crash on I-96 that also killed two of her Ultimate Frisbee teammates.
She forgave the driver who caused the accident. He has his own nightmare, she said.
“I feel worse for the guy than for us,” Bongiovanni told MLive / The Grand Rapids Press.
“We can heal and move on, but he will always remember that.”
David Earl Priskorn, 34, of South Lyon, Mich., Pleaded guilty on Tuesday Aug. 25 to three counts of movement offense causing death, a misdemeanor, in the Feb. 29 crash that claimed the life of Piet, 28, Kevin Coulter, 29, both of Grand Rapids, and Michael Cannon, 24, of Harbor Springs.
He is awaiting sentencing from Ionia County District Judge Raymond Voet, who accepted the guilty pleas. When asked if he caused the death, Priskorn replied to the judge: “Yes sir, unfortunately. “
The deceased young men played professional Ultimate Frisbee for the Detroit Mechanix.
They were on their way to training in Livonia when their car was struck from behind near the M-66 in Ionia County as they pulled over on the highway for an accident in front of them.
Priskorn had turned on his cruise control and told police the stopped cars “came out of nowhere and he had not seen them stopped,” police reports said.
In his grief, Bongiovanni found solace in his son’s girlfriend, Lydia Korodan. Bongiovanni also supports him. They watched Priskorn in court on Tuesday via an online link.
Priskorn has already written letters of apology to families. He said he wished he could swap places with the victims, they said.
It is important that he takes responsibility, they said. He pleaded guilty. His punishment does not concern them. Piet will not be coming back. Nothing can make Priskorn worse.
“Mary and I are not going to see David Priskorn for our healing,” Korodan said. “What is happening to her is not part of my healing. “
Instead, they remember a “so cool”, funny, athletic young man who had friends all over the country. He also had a big heart.
A few days before his death, Piet and Korodan were at a restaurant in Grand Rapids. They saw a man who appeared to be homeless. Piet paid the man’s bill.
“He loved life, he loved us and he was happy,” his mother said.
While she and Korodan have forgiven Priskorn, some have a different point of view and think he gets off easily. They questioned state police for failing to check Priskorn’s blood alcohol level. Police said there was no indication that Priskorn was intoxicated.
His Honda CR-V crashed into the back of the players stopped Toyota Camry, which crashed into the car in front.
Priskorn told police he drank two beers earlier in the day at an engagement party in Grand Rapids. A few days later, police found evidence on his cell phone that he was at a bar in Grand Rapids before the engagement party.
David Cunningham, whose daughter, Lindsey, was engaged to Coulter, said in a letter to the judge: “I believe this is already a miscarriage of justice for which he was not tested (rate of blood alcohol level) at the scene of the accident. …. “
Cannon’s father, Michael Cannon, previously told MLive that Priskorn was responsible for the deaths, but police made “major mistakes” in failing to test for alcohol.
Defense lawyer Joseph Brugnoli said there was no evidence his client was intoxicated.
“It really is an accident for which he feels horrible,” he said.
Samantha Phillips dated Michael Cannon for four years after they met at Central Michigan University. The two played Ultimate Frisbee at CMU.
He had just started working as a CrossFit trainer. He studied fitness and training. He hoped to one day open his own gym with his best friend. He would get up at 4:45 a.m. every day, work out and eat breakfast while he waited 6:30 a.m., Phillips said.
“He was truly the most caring person ever,” she said.
“For me, I’m trying to focus on trying to live my life the way he wanted to live his,” she said.
She said messages shared on social media after the death showed “that he has really had an impact on people’s lives. … He was always so caring and passionate about everything he did.
Piet’s mother and girlfriend Bongiovanni and Korodan said everyone reacts to the tragedy differently. They can’t be angry.
“To me, all I think about is that it doesn’t bring Drew back,” his girlfriend said. “Drew wants us to heal and do our best.” Be together and heal together.
He always wanted them to watch “Game of Thrones”. So, they watched eight seasons in one month. Both knew his sides, the other didn’t. They understood why the other was starting to cry – or laugh – out of nowhere.
“You never feel like you have to hold back anything,” Piet’s girlfriend said. “It helps to have Marie here. “