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Drinking & Driving Takes An Innocent Life

Matt Thompson grew up on over 200 acres in rural Oregon with 5 other brothers and sisters. His dad Burke Thompson owned a construction company. Working the farm was a hobby for the family, they showed horses, pigs and steers in 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA). Burke was also an assistant Boy Scout leader to his four sons and helped Matt achieve the honor of his Eagle Scout. Another hobby for Matt and his dad was restoring a 67 Ford Mustang. They joined Rouge Valley Mustangs & Classic Fords car club and every year on Father's Day drove all the way to Eureka California to show the car and eat a pancake breakfast. In fact Matt drove that car to his senior prom.

Eddie (Edwin) Coen started drinking at McKee Bridge, a bar about 30 miles out of Medford Oregon. After downing several beers at the bar he went next door and bought an 18 pack of Coors Light which he began drinking on the way home. Prior to the collision eye witnesses stated Eddie went off the road taking out about 200 feet of black berry bushes. They tried to follow him but lost sight of him because he kept accelerating and driving at a high rate of speed.

Burke was driving home around 9:00 pm that evening from a Boy Scout meeting. Eddie was driving in the opposite direction when he came to a long right hand curve in the road, crossed the double yellow line and white fog line smashing into Burke Thompson and killing him. Eddie was driving a ¾ ton Chevy 4X4 diesel truck and Burke was driving his 67 Ford Mustang. Burke was killed instantly and the car was totaled. As a troop leader Burke would always drive a couple of kids home from the Boy Scout meetings and drop them off. However this night he was alone in the car.

Matt's brother Sean went to pick up their mother from work that same evening and as they were driving home came upon the accident. This is how Matt's mother Penny Thompson learned that her husband was dead and this is how Matt's brother Sean learned that his father was dead. This I am sure is forever etched into their memories.

The Coen's and the Thompson's were family friends. Matt's older siblings grew up with Eddie and his family and Eddie's mother Ruth Simpson used to drive Matt to Utah to visit his brother on occasion. They all went to the same church and saw them weekly.

Eddie was taken to the hospital and the only injury he sustained was a broken wrist. He admitted to the trooper and the firemen at the scene that he was driving intoxicated.

According to a 2012 article by the Oregon Mail Tribune, "Coen was given a new manslaughter trial after his conviction in 2002 because the State Police Trooper on the scene of the accident that night illegally coerced Coen to talk about the crime and to consent to blood and urine tests." Eddie served about two years of a six year prison sentence. At trial Matt's sister Rhonda Jones read impassioned letters from family members calling him a "killer of man and hopes and dreams."

Eddie Coen was arrested the first time for driving under the influence in 1994 and then got a second DUI in 1997. In 2000 he received a felony charge of eluding police however that was reduced to a misdemeanor. Then on February 13th, 2002 in a drunken head on collision, Eddie Coen killed Burke Thompson.

The death of Matt's father was a huge loss for everyone in the family. His brother Sean was being groomed to take over the family business but because of this accident the business closed. Matt's mother Penny has had to work two jobs as well as sell almost all of the land in order to survive and pay bills. She has only 16 acres left.

Matt can still feel the emotion of that day even though it was 13 years ago. Matt went through over 9 months of grief counseling and says it is really hard living without your dad. Matt works as a Marshal for Reno Municipal Court and speaks at the MADD/SPARKS VIP (Victims Impact Panel). He tells the crowded room "I still go to pick up the phone to call my dad to find out how to fix something or ask for his advice. Because that's what dads do. They guide you and mentor you."

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