Father fights for fallen son
FRISCO – When Craig Mansfield’s only son was killed by an alleged drunk driver last September, he immediately went into a fog. “You’re in such a state of shock,” Mansfield said. “You just can’t fathom anything around you; it’s just a blur. You’re in so much pain.”His son, 23-year-old Senior Airman Kristopher Mansfield, was driving his motorcycle home from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, when he was struck by a vehicle. Kristopher wore a helmet and full protective gear.Behind the wheel was Michael T. Miranda, a Denver lawyer, who reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .217. The legal limit is .08. Four months earlier, Kristopher had returned home safely from a 5 1/2-month assignment in Iraq, where he held top secret clearance to repair satellite and communications equipment.The accident turned Craig Mansfield’s life upside-down, but, nearly one year later, he’s turned the tragedy into a mission and he’s spreading his message in neighboring Summit County – a place that was always special to Mansfield and his son.”I need to try,” he said with a shrug. “It feels right for me to do.”Mansfield, who lives in Denver, has a cabin in Bill’s Ranch outside Frisco and has been visiting Summit County since the early 1980s. He and Kristopher spent many days together hiking and riding motorcycles. Mansfield even taught Kristopher how to ski on plastic skis here.
Training an airmanShortly after his son’s death, Mansfield began attending Mothers Against Drunk Driving group meetings for support to help him through his healing process. Through the group – which, Mansfield pointed out, isn’t just for mothers – he started talking to groups about his loss, hoping his story would remind people not to get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking.Now, he dedicates a good portion of his life to volunteering on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and plays a large role in raising awareness of the consequences of drinking and driving at Buckley Air Force Base, where his son was stationed at the time of his death.”(Craig) brings such vivid points with him,” said Air Force Casualty Officer James Lockard. “He brings MADD folks out with a crumpled up car. We haven’t had that before.”He gives a great visual lesson that we don’t get when we get up there and say ‘Kids, don’t drink and drive,'” Lockard said. Lockard, who became friends with Mansfield while serving as an advocate for the Mansfield family after Kristopher’s death, says Mansfield’s work is vital to the health of the military.
Despite the fact that he’s teaching an important lesson, on a more unemotional level, Mansfield’s mission is also to save taxpayers money. It costs the public about $150,000 for a cadet to be adequately trained, a tab that must be paid twice if a qualified airman dies. “We’re all taking a big loss that a normal company doesn’t,” Lockard said.With the help of Lockard, Mansfield formed the “Thumbs for Chums,” a program which encourages airmen to pledge not to drink and drive or allow their friends to drink and drive. He also founded the SrA Kristopher G. Mansfield Peak One Award for leadership, citizenship and safety. This past summer, Mansfield took the award’s five recipients up to Summit County, where they were treated to a stay at Ophir Mountain Lodge and a bicycle ride from Vail Pass to Frisco.Mansfield plans to continue rewarding award winners with a weekend in the High Country in years to come.Beyond the baseThe scope of Mansfield’s efforts extend outside the base’s borders as well.
Through Mothers Against Drunk Driving, he participates in victim-impact panels that convicted drunken drivers are ordered to attend through the court system. The idea is for those who have been affected by a drunk driver to share their stories, in hopes of preventing further violations.”I can’t imagine what that’s like when you’ve decided to drink and drive and the end result is you’ve killed somebody,” he said.He’s done two in Frisco, reaching out to approximately 80 people. His message is simple: Have a plan. And stick with your plan. If you’re going to be out drinking, take a taxi home, use public transportation, have a list of friends to call for a ride, or know when to stop. “I show them what someone’s non-plan has cost me,” Mansfield said. “Kris was my only child … There’s no grandchildren, there’s not a wife. The family’s genealogy just came to a halt.The case against Miranda is still making its way through the judicial system. His trial is set for Jan. 7. Vail, Colorado