Idaho woman recalls her night of terror

April 12, 2013 10:52 am

Natalie Marti’s husband, 5-month-old baby were killed by drunk driver 10 years ago

by KELLY BLACK / Observer Correspondent 

Natalie Marti was 23 years old the night a drunk driver killed her husband and 5-month-old baby. Ten years later she continues to tell her story to students in hopes she can save a life.

That was the message Thursday as Marti spoke to Wallowa middle and high school students about the crash, her loss and her own journey out of a coma to becoming a motivational speaker.

Marti had been married two years when she and her husband, Shawn, were driving home one night on Interstate 84 near Meridian, Idaho. A drunk driver drove onto an off-ramp of the freeway, driving the wrong way, and hit the Martis’ car head on traveling at a speed of 98 mph.

The impact ripped the roof off the car. Shawn Marti’s seatbelt was torn off and he was thrown more than 100 feet from the car. The Martis’ baby, Sage, died of an internal head wound in her car seat. Natalie Marti was in a coma for three weeks; the first week the doctors didn’t think she would live.

Marti suffered a traumatic brain injury, her neck was broken in three places, she had a broken left arm, right arm, a broken right hand and a broken nose, as well as bruised internal injuries.

“But my biggest injury is my broken heart,” Marti said.

The drunk driver who killed her family was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He lost his left hand in the wreck and his passenger walked away. They both had blood alcohol levels over .20.

“This was no accident,” Marti said. “The driver has to remember the decision he made to drink and drive.”

For the last nine years, Marti has taken her message on the road. This past week she talked to students in Baker, North Powder, Union, Cove, Imbler, Elgin, Wallowa and Joseph schools. Her message was met with rapt attention.

“When I got out of the hospital, I felt like my life was over,” Marti said. “For two years I was depressed, but God has a purpose for me and I am alive today to speak to you. Don’t let my family’s lives be lost in vain.”

To give some perspective of driving drunk, she had two students come down and toss a ball back and forth. Then she let one of them wear goggles that impaired their vision. The ball tossing got a lot more difficult.

Marti told the students at each of the schools that one in three people are affected by a drunk driver. Car wrecks are the No. 1 killer of teens and one third of them are caused by drunk driving. She said every 52 minutes someone dies in a drunk driving wreck, and every 90 seconds there is a DUI crash in the U.S.

Marti read a journal entry from her sister’s journal during her time in intensive care.

“Seeing Natalie motionless hit me hard,” Marti read. “I can’t believe this happened to my family. I can’t cry. It’s not real.”

The Oregon Department of Transportation paid for Marti’s visits to schools in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties, and the Wallowa County Prevention Coalition helped coordinate her school visits.