Attorney General Headshot
Attorney General Seal

Drunk-Driving Crash Survivor is Living Proof of the Power of Good and Bad Decisions

Drunk-Driving Crash Survivor is Living Proof of the Power of Good and Bad Decisions

Attorney General Larry Long to Introduce Former Volleyball Star

PIERRE, S.D.-     Attorney General Larry Long will welcome former All-American volleyball star Sarah Panzau to Washington High School in Sioux Falls on Wednesday, November 12.  Panzau delivers a dramatic presentation, called Living Proof, in which she recounts the pattern of poor choices that finally caught up with her and the drastic consequences these decisions can have.  

At 1:20 p.m., General Long will introduce Panzau to students at Washington High School501 N. Sycamore Ave.  The presentation is sponsored by local Anheuser-Busch distributor Beal Distributing.

“It’s imperative for our young people to learn the importance of making smart, responsible choices and respecting the law,” said General Long.  “Sarah’s inspiring story is a real-life example of learning from one’s mistakes and turning the result into something positive.  Her message really resonates with students, and we are fortunate to be able to welcome her to South Dakota.”        

As a two-time member of the National Junior College Athletic Association women’s volleyball All-America team, Panzau knew what it was like to be on top of her game – and on top of the world.  But not long after, she nearly lost it all.  

Somewhere between life as a competitively driven high-school athlete and the early years of college, she began heading down a destructive path.  She found herself hanging out with the wrong crowd and getting more out of drugs and dangerous levels of alcohol than hitting the books and spiking a ball.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 23, 2003, Panzau's car - and her life - spun out of control.  With a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit, the 21-year-old decided to drive home drunk, missed a highway exit and rolled her car four times.  Without a seat belt, she was ejected through the rear window of her car, her left arm was torn from her body and she was thrown onto the roadway. The next thing she remembers, she was in the hospital being told that she had lost her arm. She remained hospitalized for several months and has endured more than 30 surgeries.  

“Sarah’s story, while gut-wrenching, is such a powerful example on the importance of making the right choices,” said Arch Beal, president and general manager at Beal Distributing.  “Her message reaches the students because she is young and was active and popular in school.  When she tells them to make good decisions, to think before they act, to not drink when underage and never drive drunk…they really get it.  That’s why we feel so strongly about helping Sarah spread her message.”

For her part, Panzau recognizes it was a series of poor choices that led up to that tragic night and hopes others will learn from her mistakes.  She started speaking to students because, until the crash, she was in their shoes: invincible and with the world ahead of her.

Since 1982, Anheuser-Busch and its wholesalers, including Beal Distributing, have invested more than $750 million in national advertising campaigns and community-based programs to promote responsible drinking and prevent alcohol abuse.  For more information on these efforts and the progress being made, visit www.beeresponsible.com.

-30-