Allison Besaw is finally smiling again a year after her dad was killed in an early morning ambulance crash in Jupiter.
Allison’s mom, Dawn Besaw, said it hasn’t been easy either for her or her 6-year-old daughter to cope with the death of their husband and father, Paul Besaw, on June 1, 2017.
“She didn’t want to smile for a while. She didn’t even know it was OK to be happy,” Dawn said Thursday at the Zero Tolerance DUI Luncheon hosted by the nonprofit Dori Saves Lives, almost a year to the day after her husband’s death.
“She’s had a hard time, but it’s getting easier, and it’s helping her to help others as well.”
The annual event hosted by the traffic-safety organization was held in Paul’s honor. About 80 people attended, including police officers and family members of crash victims.
Besaw, a 36-year-old paramedic from Lake Worth, died alongside his partner, Lahiri Garcia, 51, of Port St. Lucie when the ambulance they were driving flipped onto its side after colliding with another car.
Authorities say the driver of that other car, Genaro De La Cruz Ajqui, had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit. His wife told police that he was drinking for hours before the crash.
For Dawn, that means that her husband’s death was preventable.
“My husband’s accident was preventable on so many levels,” she said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post after she spoke at Thursday’s event. “But now that he’s gone, my goal is to make sure another family doesn’t have to experience the same tragedy we did.”
One of the ways the Besaws are taking on drunken driving is by telling their story and raising awareness of the consequences of driving under the influence.
“You can’t stop every drunk driver, but I like to think we’ve stopped a lot of them,” Dawn said. “People are sitting here today because they heard our story, or a story like ours, and thought twice before they got behind the wheel drunk.”
For the widowed Besaw, stopping drunk drivers is just an extension of her late husband’s work as a paramedic saving lives. By her calculations, Paul saved at least one life a week, or 52 lives a year. With 20 years left before he retired, Dawn says that there are more than 1,000 lives that her husband won’t be able to save.
“If I can just stop one drunk driver by telling my story, if I can save one life in Paul’s name, that’s what I’m going to do,” she said.