BURGAW, NC (WWAY) -- A woman recovers from stage four cancer, then gets hit by a drunk driver, but it was not the driver's first offense. Peter Generelly has now been convicted of his third DWI. He hit Patti Rippel and her baby last August not even 24 hours after he bonded out of jail for his second DWI.
"It's like a loaded gun driving a car. He'll kill somebody next time," Rippel said. "We were very lucky, very blessed to be here."
Rippel took her son to get ice cream in Surf City to celebrate her recovery from cancer. On her walk back, she was pushing her baby in his stroller, when they were hit head-on by Generelly's truck.
"Just left us on the side of the road without looking back," Rippel said in court. "He didn't even care if we were dead or alive. I didn't have a choice when I got cancer. He has a choice with his disease alcoholism. He chooses every day whether he decides to take a drink or not."
Two of the witnesses who chased his truck were retired FBI agents.
"When they got out of their cars to help this lady and her baby, they expected someone to be dead because of the speed of the collision," Assistant District Attorney Joe Bowman told the judge. Bowman said Generelly was traveling about 30 or 40 mph. Police found marijuana and empty beer cans in his truck. Generelly was arrested for a DWI in Hampstead the night before and got another DWI in South Carolina two months before that when he rear-ended a sheriff's deputy.
"You should take advantage of every second you have, and it saddens me to think that other people can't feel how precious that life is," Rippel said. "He obviously has his own issues if he's drinking like that."
Wednesday, the party finally ended for Generelly. Judge Richard Doughton sentenced him to 19-23 months in prison. After he serves his sentence, Generelly will be on probation for five years and required to get treatment.
"He could've killed this child. He could've killed this lady. He could've killed anybody out there," Doughton said.
"I never thought I was going to live long enough to see my baby go to school, to graduate, and I've gotten this far, and I'm not going to let somebody else take it away from me nor am I going to let him take it away from somebody else because that's what he'll do if just doesn't get help," Rippel said.
If Generelly violates his probation, he will face another eight to ten months in prison. His attorney said Generelly chose to plead guilty instead of taking the case to trial because he wanted to do the right thing and take responsibility for his actions. In court, Generelly apologized to Rippel.