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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Daughter’s death in accident while texting a warning to others

    Feb. 20–Heather Lerch died a year ago near Tumwater while she was texting and driving her car.

    Now the mangled car is on a tour of area schools in an effort sponsored by the State Patrol to warn students of the dangers of texting while driving.

    “”I was angry that she was texting and driving, and I see so many people doing it,”” said Heather’s mother, Wendy Lerch. “”I want to get her car out there and say, ‘This could happen to you.’ “”

    The Chevrolet Cobalt, which Heather Lerch had bought for her 19th birthday a month before the accident, will be on display at Lake Washington High School this week on the anniversary of her death, Feb. 23.

    Wendy Lerch figures the car has been to more than a dozen schools since her daughter’s death.

    Not only is her daughter’s car on display, a website,, tells her story and discusses the danger of texting while driving.

    “”She always liked to be the center of attention,”” said Wendy Lerch. The website means her daughter’s story will live on, she said.

    While driving home from work, Heather Lerch was reading and sending text messages when her car crashed through a guardrail. The driver’s-side door collapsed and she died instantly.

    Heather Lerch was also attending Centralia College.

    On the website, her parents, Wendy and Dan, wrote, “”Heather made a terrible mistake on that fateful night of Feb. 23, 2010. She was just driving home from work. When less than three miles from home she decided to text back and forth with a friend. The conversation wasn’t that important. It could have waited. The conversation was not worth her life. Please don’t text and drive. Come home alive.””

    Last May, the first stop for the wrecked car was Tumwater High School, where Heather had graduated and her younger brother was a student. Wendy Lerch said she gave a talk to the students. “”It was very tough,”” she said. “”A lot of the kids knew her. It was very intense and hit home for a lot of kids.””

    The state made it illegal to text-message while driving in 2008.

    Wendy Lerch hopes the display of her daughter’s car will save lives. She said she gets so angry when she sees drivers texting that she put a huge sign on the back of her car: “”Hang up and drive in loving memory of Heather Lerch.””

    If she spots someone texting on the road, she’ll try to drive up next to the car so her sign is on display.

    “”It’s almost epidemic,”” said Wendy Lerch. “”This keeps her memory alive and I hope the word gets out.””

    Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or

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