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Woman, 3 children to run race to remember father killed by drunk driver

By Jed Boal | Posted - Mar 11th, 2014 @ 7:12pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — When Melinda Kunz first found out her husband had been hit by a car, she said she braced herself for a trip to the hospital, but never imagined he had died. A short time later, she discovered he'd been killed by a drunk driver.

More than four years after her husband was killed by that drunk driver, the Kamas woman is sharing the toll that tragedy has taken, and the spirit it has given her family.

"He made everything fun. He made everything bright and happy. I remember crumpling to the ground thinking, 'How could this be?' He was 33-years-old — a very active person," she said.

Tuesday, she's back on her feet and said her three young children, ages 11, 9 and 6 are doing well as they prepare to honor his memory again with a running race this summer.

"He was just so dynamic," Melinda Kunz said of he late husband, Jeremy. "He loved people."

Jeremy Kunz was killed while cheering on a teammate in the Ragnar Las Vegas relay race in October 2009. Melinda and Jeremy had traveled with their team to Las Vegas to race in the popular ultra-distance relay.

After the race had started, around 3:30 a.m., Jeremy was cheering a teammate from the side of the road. Melinda was in a team van, further along the route, preparing for her leg when she got a call from the other team van.

"He said, 'Jeremy's been hit. You need to come,'" Melinda said.

She and her other teammates piled back into their van and tried to head back to where Jeremy had been hit. They could not get all the way there because it was taped off as a crime scene. Then she saw a medical helicopter circle the scene of the crash, and then leave.

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"It was at that point that I realized this is more than a broken leg — something is seriously wrong," Melinda said, tearing up as she retold the story.

When police came to tell her that her husband had been killed by a drunk driver: "I felt like the wind has just been knocked out of me."

Joshua Salayich was driving drunk, three times the legal limit, when he lost control of his car, and struck Jeremy Kunz. Salayich pleaded guilty and is serving a sentence of seven to 20 years in a Nevada prison.

"The driver had actually tried to flee the scene," Melinda said.

Witnesses also said that the driver was pleading with people not to call the police. The family sought justice, but also chose to forgive Salayich.

"My heart went out to him as well," Melinda said.

Melinda said she thinks about Salayich every day and hopes he's changing his life.

"Not only was my husband killed from his actions, but now he has to spend at least seven years in prison," she said, noting that he's already served half of that time.

That's something she wants every driver to consider when they get behind the wheel. She wants all of us to ask ourselves whether we're ready for the consequences of our actions while driving.

"He would definitely want us to be happy," Melinda said.

The family celebrates Jeremy's life every summer with the Star Valley Half Marathon. It's in Star Valley, Wyo., where Jeremy grew up.

"It's really helped us heal, and come together," Melinda said.

This year, the family will run the fourth annual Star Valley Half Marathon on Jeremy's Birthday, July 12. They are sharing his story so others will consider the consequences of their choices while driving.


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Jed Boal

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