Local

Family speaking out after Awahnee couple killed in crash

Monday, May 21, 2012

The family of an Ahwahnee couple killed over the weekend in a suspected DUI crash is speaking out.

The crash happened Saturday evening in Madera County.

Investigators say 60-year old Gary Smalz and his wife, 52-year-old Laura Smalz of Ahwahnee were riding their motorcycle, when a man in a truck crossed directly into the path of the bike.

The truck driver has been identified as 41-year old Gary Ragsdale.

He was arrested for driving under the influence and faces vehicular manslaughter charges.

Gary and Laura Smalz were experienced motorcycle riders.

They were just ten miles from their Ahwahnee home when the crash happened.

They leave behind a big family, including their nine-year-old daughter who insisted on sharing her thoughts about the loss.

"I really miss them."

Nine-year-old Cheyenne Smalz was away at Girl Scout camp Saturday, when her parents, Gary and Laura Smalz died in a crash along Road 600 in Madera County.

"They were very special to me," she said.

Ironically, Gary worked as a motorcycle safety instructor.

During his free time, he performed music with various bands. His wife of nearly four years, Laura, was an artist.

The long-time friends fell in love after their significant others both passed away.

Roxanne Smalz, the victim's daughter, said, "I just never thought my dad would get killed on a motorcycle, and the fact that somebody made a conscious decision to drink and drive and kill my father and step-mother is unforgivable."

Investigators say, Gary and Laura were riding their Harley Southbound when the driver of a pick-up truck, Gary Ragsdale turned into a driveway right in front of them.

"The gentleman was right here, and the lady was right here."

Jazz Singh owns the nearby liquor store. He was among several people who tried to save the couple.

Jazz Singh said, "I took his hand off his chest, so he could breathe a little better, opened his mouth."

Singh says Ragsdale appeared remorseful, and offered his assistance, as well.

"He stopped to help. He pulled over right away."

Despite that witness account, Gary's family says, it offers them little comfort.

Ragsdale is accused of driving drunk, but has since bailed out of jail.

April Bryant, Gary's sister, said, "My brother is gone. I can't get him back. This man is home with his kids, his wife and his family. It's not fair."

Family members say if anything good can come out of this tragedy, they hope it's this: think before you drink and drive.

Funeral arrangements are still pending. As for the suspect, this is his first DUI offense.

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madera, madera county, dui, accident, local
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