A mother warns others to learn from her tragedy (August 26, 2003)

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– by Jeffrey Blackwell, Staff Writer –
Democrat and Chronicle.

The Rev. Joy Powell comforts Stefane Donald, 14, left and Sparkle Dudley, 12, as the mark the 21st birthday of Sparkle’s brother, Yosmain Ammons, in Rochester on Monday. Ammons died July 26 in a drunken driving crash. [Shawn Dowd, Staff Photographer]

Instead of celebrating her son’s 21st birthday, Latasha Dudley spent another day mourning his death.

Yosmain Ammons was one of six young people killed in a fiery crash July 26 that was fueled by alcohol and bad decisions.

On Monday, his mother made a plea to young people not to drink and drive, lend a car to someone who is drunk, or even get into a vehicle with a drunken driver.

“Don’t do it,” Dudley said at a prayer vigil at the site of the accident. “I don’t have my son here today. I don’t want this tragedy to happen again.”

Ammons was killed when the sports utility vehicle he was riding in slammed into the concrete overpass abutment on the Plymouth Street exit off Interstate 490.

State troopers said the driver, Chevelle Tanksley, 29, who was also killed, was intoxicated and was driving at a high rate of speed without a license at the time of the accident.

Dudley not only blames the driver for the accident, but also the person who put the SUV in Tanksley’s hands.

According to investigators, a friend lent one of the accident victims the vehicle a few hours before the accident.

The investigation continues, and the friend could face charges, according to the State Police.

Blood tests revealed that Tanksley’s blood alcohol level was .19 percent at the time of the accident. The legal limit is .08. His driving privileges had been suspended or revoked 14 times since 1999, and he had never held a driver’s license in New York.

“If (the friend) had not given them the car, my son would have been here today,” Dudley said.

The Rev. Joy Powell, who organized the news conference and prayer vigil near the site of the accident, said young people should use their common sense when confronted with an intoxicated person who wants to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

“Don’t jeopardize your life or anybody else’s life and get in a vehicle knowing you’re not fit to be driving,” she said.

“You never know, it could be your last time.”