Near miss with wrong-way driver brings back memories for Gig Harbor woman

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 6:16 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 29 at 6:42 PM

GIG HARBOR, Wash. -- A month after nearly being hit by an alleged drunk driver, Marilyn Clapper is still shaken up.

“It’s amazing no one was killed. It really is,” Clapper said.

Clapper was one of several drivers on Highway 16 who called 911 New Year’s afternoon about a man driving westbound in the eastbound lanes.

Prosecutors say 80-year-old Rupert Leohner drove several miles in the wrong direction, even crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge before police got him to stop.

He did not injure anyone.

Prosecutors charged Leohner with driving under the influence. Police say he also suffers from Alzheimer’s.

The incident brought back terrible memories for Clapper, who’s son was killed by a wrong-way drunk driver on New Year’s Day in 1981.

“I thought this can’t be happening again to this family,” said Clapper. “It just can’t. 32 years to the day!”

Following the death of her son, James Bowman, Clapper founded the Pierce County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and worked with lawmakers in Olympia to toughen laws for DUI drivers like the man who killed her son.

“They may sentence him to prison, but you know we’re sentenced to life,” said Clapper.

Clapper plans on attending every one of Leohner’s court hearings. She said because of Leohner’s age and health condition, she said he should not be sent to jail. But considering what almost happened to her family, again, she said Leohner should not be allowed to drive.

“It’s not fair to the community, it’s not fair to any of us to have to put up with this kind of nonsense,” she said.

 

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