Man warns against drunk driving after alleged DUI crash disables him

Feb 14, 2019, 12:56 AM | Updated: Dec 11, 2022, 8:41 pm

WEBER COUNTY, Utah — They were on their way to take pregnancy photos on a January day in Weber County when a crash with an alleged drunk driver changed their lives forever.

Now, the couple hopes their story underscores just how devastating it can be to drink and drive.

Michael Clabaugh has no feeling but physical pain and is largely paralyzed below the neck. Only some slight movement in his arms and legs is what gives him hope of ever being able to gain control over his limbs again.

“Right now I’m squeezing with everything that I have in my stomach and in my legs — just to try to let her know that I’m trying to feel her hand,” an emotional Clabaugh said of his fiancée, Mirinda Taylor, as he laid in his bed at Northern Utah Rehabilitation Hospital in South Ogden. Taylor held his limp hand, feeling no pressure that would indicate a grip.

“It was the most scary, most frightening moment of my life,” Taylor said of the collision that put Clabaugh in that state.

On Jan. 19, the couple stopped at a gas station at 5500 S. 5500 W. in Hooper on their way to take photos of Taylor, who was 8-months pregnant at the time.

“I heard my wife say three times, ‘oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’ and I get out of the car to find out what’s wrong with her and I get plowed by a car,” Clabaugh said.

Court records show the driver of the vehicle that struck Clabaugh along with two parked cars had been reported as driving “erratically and recklessly” in the area prior to the crash.

A probable cause statement said 46-year-old Terisa Lynn Brandewie subsequently admitted to drinking the equivalent of a 12-pack of beer that day along with an unspecified amount of vodka.

The document said an empty bottle of vodka and prescription medications were found in Brandewie’s car.

Brandewie was charged Feb. 4, with 3rd-degree felony driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and class B misdemeanor accident involving property damage with knowledge of accident.

“I wonder what she knows,” Taylor questioned. “Does she know? Does she know how badly she’s hurt somebody?”

Clabaugh, who enjoyed photographing nature and the loved ones around him, is now resigned to simply peering out a window next to his hospital bed.

“I can’t talk about it — it’s just hard,” Clabaugh said, choking up.

“To face that you’re not holding a camera?” Taylor questioned.

“That I can’t capture the beauty that I see from you, from life and everything — it just sucks,” Clabaugh replied.

Clabaugh said he dreamed of the day he could hold his newborn baby, Rarity Anne, who is due in March.

Now, he tries to find optimism in thinking about how he’ll teach his daughter to forgive the woman accused of hitting and severely injuring him.

“The only thing that keeps me so positive is that I have to teach my daughter forgiveness,” Clabaugh said. “She has to find forgiveness in her heart for the woman that has caused this to her dad.”

Clabaugh said he still hoped for a serious legal consequence for the woman.

Brandewie is scheduled for an initial appearance on Feb. 27.

The couple has a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.

For now, they are hoping Clabaugh somehow regains more feeling and movement in his extremities.

“There’s going to be a lot of tears, going to be a lot of anger, frustration,” Clabaugh said. “I just hope it’s all OK.”

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Man warns against drunk driving after alleged DUI crash disables him