In 2009, Vancouver man Antonio Celestine made national headlines when he struck his own math teacher, Gordon Patterson, who was riding a bike. Celestine was texting when he struck Patterson at considerable speed. The case gained national notoriety as a powerful reminder of the tragic consequences of distracted driving.
Now, just two months after finishing a three year sentence for manslaughter, Celestine has been arrested for more driving charges — driving without a license, attempting to elude, and taking a vehicle without permission. From The Republic:
Cellestine’s history wasn’t mentioned at the hearing. But its echoes still resonate in this southwest Washington city of 160,000. The Gordon Patterson Memorial Bike Ride has been celebrated for three years, and the high school where Patterson helped Cellestine graduate has a section informally referred to as the “Patterson wing.”
Before the crash, Cellestine and Patterson made an odd duo, one a failing student with a sizeable juvenile record, the other a beloved math and design teacher who taught church classes under the alias “Gordon the Science Warden.”
Cellestine had convictions for drugs, burglary and fourth-degree assault, and spent nearly a year in a juvenile detention center. Once free, he struggled to adjust to high school. But Cellestine credited Patterson with helping him pull through.
“If it wasn’t for Mr. Patterson,” Cellestine said at his sentencing in 2010, “I would never have finished my senior paper and graduated.”
In September 2009, Cellestine was 18 and finished with school. Patterson had finished class and, as he urged others to do, commuted home by bicycle. He’d had a scare a year before, his friend Sherine West told The Columbian newspaper in 2010, when a car struck him on St. Johns Road on his way home.
This time, Patterson was headed north on the same street when Cellestine happened to be driving behind him. Patterson was hit with such force that a police sergeant would later testify to collecting pieces of Patterson’s helmet from the street.
This tragedy is a powerful reminder of the danger texting and driving poses for society — driver and victims. The penalties for texting and driving have been increasing, with hefty fines, jail time, and revocation of driving privileges on the horizon. Additionally, as more bicyclists join the road, texting and driving is becoming an even greater public health hazard.
In addition to not texting and driving, students can be a vital part of the movement to end distracted driving. Get involved in your school or community.