‘It’s still hard to believe’: Mother reflects on 3 years since son’s death, urges safe celebrations

‘It’s still hard to believe’: Mother reflects on 3 years since son’s death, urges safe celebrations

As many prepare to ring in the new year of 2023, a local family has an important and timely reminder: celebrate safely.

January 1 will mark three years since Zarrell Crittenden was killed when a wrong-way driver hit his car on the Arlington Expressway. He was 27 years old.

RELATED: Grieving wife asks Jacksonville drivers to think before they drink this New Year’s Eve

On Friday, Action News Jax spoke with Zarrell’s mother, Zonnetta Thomas.

“It’s still hard to believe,” Zonnetta said. “We just find it so hard to believe that he’s gone because he was such a big presence.”

There’s a message she and other loved ones hope everyone keeps in mind this weekend.

“Know when it’s time to stop,” Zonnetta said. “But then also I would ask that people who are with someone, let them know hey I’ve recognized you’ve had too much and take their keys. Don’t allow someone to leave.”

Because it’s also about accountability. She added that people need to stop worrying about offending someone else -- when they know someone has had too much to drink.

“Whether you’re a bartender, nightclub owner, a friend, whomever…if you know someone has had too much of whatever it is that they can be under the influence -- stop them,” Zonnetta said.

Police arrested and charged the driver, Asea Hollingshed with DUI manslaughter.

Court records show she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Zarrell was on his way home from church. It’s the last thing his wife, three children, and family wanted to hear on day one of the new year.

“Zarrell was just life,” Zonnetta said. “He was so caring and loving all the time. He was just laughing, and I just can’t say enough. I could go on and on. He was here, and he left his mark.”

Zonnetta got a tattoo that says “Mine” to honor her son’s memory.

“He was mine.”

She shared what she misses the most about her son.

“His incredible hugs. He was 6′4.” He weighed 263 pounds. He would fill up a doorway, and he would give you the biggest hugs. They were just so special, and they can’t be replicated. So I miss that, along with so many other things. But that hug was just the warmest thing I was ever given as a gift.”

Farah and Farah are offering free rides on New Year’s Eve for people in Jacksonville and St. Augustine. They are offering a $50 dollar uber credit or cab ride for a trip up to 30 miles from the rider’s pickup location.

Click HERE to claim your free ride.

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