Gwinnett County, Georgia
Beat the HEAT
“Racing for Education”
Critically Injured-Jan 27th, 2008
"I got blindsided. I didn't know anything about it (street racing). By Jan. 30, I was too educated," he said.
Staton's blood-alcohol content was 0.08 percent, the level at which a driver is considered drunk in Ohio. Mrs. Staton denied her husband was racing when the crash occurred and expressed concern for Monica Durban. "My husband paid the ultimate price for his mistake. He was a good man and a good father," she said.
Two other street racers died in Franklin County in the months following the crash that killed Staton and injured Monica. Monica’s father, who is an attorney, began calling for laws to make it easier to charge and convict those who turn public roads into personal raceways. “Perhaps the confiscation of racers' prized cars and more jail time would make them lay off the gas,” he said.
"There's no turning this back. None of this will help us. But if it can keep some other parents' daughter from being exposed to what we've gone through ..."
Drag-racing tires, a modified engine, and other after-market parts to boost speed, including a nitrous-oxide supply to generate more horsepower. The race against the Camaro had just concluded when the 30-year-old lost control of his GTO. His speeding car slid across the median and into the westbound lanes of I-70 near Hilliard-Rome Road.
Monica Durban had just finished her shift at the Starbuck’s near Lennox Town Center. She was only minutes from home. The 20-year-old Ohio State University junior doesn't recall what happened early on Jan. 27th , she did not regain consciousness for six weeks.
Staton's car spun sideways in front of Durban's Mercury sedan. The impact sheared the Pontiac GTO into two pieces, throwing Staton out of his car. Trapped in the wreckage, Monica was near death…Staton was dead. His wife, Michelle, cried inconsolably as she bent over his body until she was pried away by rescue workers. Following in another car to watch the race, she witnessed the death of the father of their two young daughters.
Only moments afterward, Mrs. Staton appeared proud of her husband’s last race. In a reference to her husband's opponent, she told police: "That boy didn't have anything."
Monica Durban used to have everything.
She loved her film-study classes and romping around on her horse, Lil' Deacon. The engagement ring on her finger had been there only four weeks. She planned to marry, move to California and pursue an acting career.
Now, she would be satisfied with anything remotely approaching normalcy. "I've been to the depths of hell and back … I want to be like this again," she says, pointing to a pre-crash photo of herself.
Monica's once fast-paced life has slowed to baby steps. She is undergoing physical rehabilitation to learn how to walk again. A rod props up her crushed left leg while hunks of metal hold together her shattered right heel. The traumatic brain injury she suffered apparently still plays tricks. "My hand hurts so bad, daddy. Love it," she says, asking her father to rub her hand. There's nothing wrong with her left hand or wrist. Her brain, though, tells her it hurts. Monica's strength is amazing, her father Lee Durban says. The neurosurgeon gave her a 200-to-1 shot of survival.
"For six-weeks plus, you think you have an absolute vegetable. It's a hell you can't describe. But we're past the miracle and piling miracles on top of miracles," he said of his daughter's ongoing recovery.
Racing used to be a source of pride for the Durbans. The late Bob Durban, Lee's brother, was a successful drag racer, winning the pro-stock championship at the 1972 NHRA Gatornationals. But Lee Durban never had given a thought to street racing. Not until that night, when the hospital called and literally told him his daughter was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Eight beers into the evening, George Staton Jr. decided he was up for a "kill" — street-racer lingo for a win over another car. He clambered into his 2004 Pontiac GTO at his Grove City home and rumbled to I-70 on the Far West Side to pair off against a challenger in a hopped-up Camaro.
George Staton's "Goat," as the GTO is known among motorheads, was built for top-end speed. His vanity license plate —1 BLUBYU — captured both his car's color and performance.
After Staton's death, some among the Columbus performance-car community conducted a memorial "cruise-in" and raised money for his widow and kids.
The Durban family never got anything from Staton's fellow auto enthusiasts — no call, no note, no money, no apology, no remorse.