The parents of two Texas boys killed when a pickup truck ran over their tent in a North Dakota campground last summer have returned to North Dakota to lobby the state Legislature for tougher drunken driving laws.
Alaries Ruiz, 5, and Cyris Ruiz, 9, were sleeping in their tent at Hahn’s Bay Campground at Lake Metigoshe near the Canadian border when a drunken driver lost control of his speeding pickup on a gravel road, ran over their tent and crashed into a tree, authorities say. Juan Acosta, 31, of Newburg, awaits an April trial on felony charges of manslaughter and reckless endangerment. His attorney declined comment.
The boys’ parents, Juan Ruiz and his wife, Sandy Hernandez, plan to share their story with lawmakers at the Capitol in Bismarck during Law Enforcement Day, the Grand Forks Herald reported.
“A lot died with them that night,” said Juan Ruiz, who also was in the tent and was injured, along with a third boy. “Yes, I’m here. I survived. But for my boys and for other people, for other families, I want to see more awareness, stiffer penalties, more shame.
“No words or actions are going to bring our little ones back,” he said. “But I have to do this to find some kind of peace. I feel this is all that’s keeping me sane.”
Several bills aimed at toughening North Dakota’s driving-under-the-influence laws are expected to be introduced this year in the North Dakota Legislature.
One bill, introduced late Monday by Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-Fargo, and backed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, would establish a mandatory minimum jail sentence of four days and a $750 fine for a first drunken driving offense.
The state officials advocated that and other changes to state DUI laws at a news conference last month in West Fargo that featured an enlarged image of a 1-1/2-year-old girl who had been killed along with her parents by a drunken driver the same month the Ruiz boys died.
The brothers had traveled from their home in El Paso, Texas, to visit their father, who was working in the western North Dakota oil patch. Juan Ruiz said he and his wife, Sandy Hernandez, plan to stay in North Dakota. He will work for a Newburg-area farmer who had hired him for some field work before the tragedy and befriended the family in its aftermath.