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The Daily Tar Heel

Vigil held to mourn victims of crash one year later

On the one-year anniversary of her mother's death, DeSeante Jones continues to mourn the woman she had looked forward to sharing her life with.

Darlene McGee's life was cut short in a drunk driving accident that has raised concerns about underage drinking by college students in Chapel Hill. She was honored Tuesday at a vigil in front of the post office at 179 E. Franklin St.

On July 19, 2015, police say then-UNC student Chandler Kania drove the wrong way down I-85, resulting in a crash that killed three people: McGee, 46; her close friend Felecia Harris, 49; and 6-year-old Jahnice Beard, Harris' granddaughter.

Prior to the crash, which happened around 3 a.m., 20-year-old Kania had been drinking at Chapel Hill bars La Residence and He's Not Here using a fake ID, according to police.

Kania has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder and is out of jail on bond awaiting his next court date on Aug. 16.

Jones said she wishes daily her mother were here to see Jones' son, McGee's grandson, grow up.

"July 19 is a day that will forever be engraved in my memory. What it represents has been the pain of my existence," she said.

"I struggled to write this statement because I could not say in words how this tragedy has impacted the lives of people. One night of irresponsibility has changed the course of (Kania's) life and caused lasting grief in ours."

Saundra Dockery, who lost her daughter in a drunk driving accident and is now a member of the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving, spoke in support of McGee's family.

"Those of us who have lost loved ones are angry, and we are sad, and we have a right to be," she said.

"Tonight we will light candles, because we know that somewhere in the depths of everyone who has been affected by loss or injury, there is an unquenchable hope, a sea of optimism that what is is not what has to always be."

Alex Faison, Jr., a Durham resident and cousin of McGee, said he'd made plans to visit her after she moved to Charlotte.

"Then I got that call in the middle of the night that the accident happened, where I live, in my home," he said.

"It made me feel a lot of responsibility for some reason. I felt like right here, ten to fifteen minutes from my home, my cousin was killed."

Faison said a year was not enough time to fully heal.

"Our family is hurting — our family has been hurting for one year," he said.

"The last time we saw my cousin was when we were remembering her mother who passed. We had a cookout together. We shared some great moments."

Jones said it's frustrating that one person's irresponsible actions can cause so much harm.

"It’s unfortunate that some individuals don’t hold fast to similar morals and responsibilities. They allow their vices to dictate their lives," she said.

"Let’s continue to raise awareness. This case is under the scrutiny of so many young individuals, and I’m afraid that if this man is not held accountable, it will set a precedent for others’ actions."

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