Cari’s Story

Rhode Island – You Can Save a Life Now
September 19, 2016
Sharon’s Story
September 19, 2016

Cari’s Story

On May 3rd, 1980, my world came to an end. My daughter, Carime Anne Lightner, “Cari”, 13-years-old, was killed by a multiple repeat offender drunk driver. She was hit from behind, thrown 125 feet and left in the road to die. The drunk driver did not stop to render aid, nor did he tell anyone of his actions when he returned home. He did tell his wife “not to look at the car” before passing out drunk. She ignored him, looked at the car, and the rest is history.

When Clarence Busch killed my daughter, he was out on bail from another hit and run drunk driving crash, and had an astonishing 3 prior convictions for drunk driving in 4 years. Yet, somehow, he was still driving on a valid California driver’s license.

Cari Lightner was an identical twin and my “oldest” daughter by 4 minutes. She was beautiful, outgoing, athletic, popular, compassionate and funny! She was a great imitator of others and had a wonderful sense of humor. She and her sister were idolized by their younger brother, Travis – mainly because they were bigger than his friends, and could threaten them with bodily harm whenever they went after their brother.

Cari always said she would never leave home because she “had it made,” and always talked about going into the real estate business with me. She was a normal teenager, fretting over her weight, constantly on the phone, and the one everyone went to for advice. She was very mature for her age, and I still miss her. On the few occasions when I have dreamed of her, I wake up with the most incredible feeling of joy. I wish that would happen more often.

Clarence Busch was prosecuted, but despite the fact that he killed a child, left the scene, and had numerous priors, he was only sentenced to two years, and only for vehicular manslaughter. He ended up at a work camp and halfway house, had his car at the facility and drove to and from work and home on weekends. His full license was returned to him upon his release just 18 months later. He was given the usual time off for good behavior. Frankly, it is my firm belief that had I not started MADD, he would never have seen the inside of a halfway house. I had to fight my way through the criminal justice system or as we came to call it “the justice for the criminal system!”

Guess what? Shortly after his release, he hit another girl, with the same name as my daughter, while drinking and driving with a blood alcohol concentrate (BAC) of .20. This wasn’t the end of his illegalities, but it was more than enough.

Though I wasn’t able to see the man who killed my daughter prosecuted to the full extent of the law, I was able to see, through my work with MADD, increased prosecution and sentencing of other perpetrators who killed and injured innocent victims. I was also able to see a wondrous change in attitudes about the nation’s most often committed crime during that time.

Cari will always live on, in my heart and the hearts of her family and friends and in the pages of history. She was a remarkable child, and, thanks to the work of thousands of volunteers when MADD was grass roots, we saved thousands and now hundreds of thousands of lives. I know she would be proud.


  1. suzi says:

    I was the same age as cari and living san Francisco with my parents at the time I saw this all whole thing unfold. I am now an adult with four kids of my own and living in Florida with my family my son was 12 and walking home from the middle school which is six blocks from the house . i got a phone call at work asking to speak to the paramedics telling me to remain calm as he explained to me that my son was hit by someone doing forty to fifty miles an hour in a school zone . As he explained this to me on the phone at work all i kept asking was this person drunk I need to know if this person was a drunk driver . All the paramedics could tell me is that I need to get to the trauma unit right away . As I am on my way to the trauma unit at the children’s hospital i had flashbacks of what happened to cari and now i am in trauma unit with my own son and praying to god to please let my son be ok . My son was not ok he had lacerations all around his head laying unconscious on a backboard with his head in a stabilizer on the backboard his neck in a cervical collar and a broken collar bone bruises all on his body and as the doctor tried to tell me that they are working on him I cant be in here I just remembered telling the doctors that is my son I need to be with my child. after four days in the trauma unit he finally came around . It wasn’t easy it took time but he is ok now and in the state of Florida as i took this person who hit my child to court it was never disclosed if had been drinking . I can only assume who hits a child in a school doing forty to fifty miles an hour she almost killed my only son. Till this very day I thank you for the MADD chapter in San Francisco ,It finally reached Florida in the late 90’s so thank you and i am truly sorry for your loss of your daughter

    • Mel Kosec says:

      This stories are remarkable. This reminds me that if a crime is committed, and the punishment does not match the crime, the offender will not learn anything and will not benefit. Every day people drive and possibly speed just a teeny bit. However, whenever we see a police officer, we slow down to the speed limit or below the speed limit. Why is it that the idea of getting caught breaking the law, changes our behavior? It is not because all of a sudden we realized we were breaking the law and were reminded consider other people safety on the road. It Hass to do with the law and possible consequences. Again the punishment has to match the crime, otherwise the criminal will not feel remorseful, enough to change. The reason that remorse is important. Is that the way one feels leads to the way how one acts. If I feel bad that I did something I’m going to act differently than if I don’t feel bad that I did something bad.

  2. iloved the movie carrie was too young to die

    • Andriana says:

      May Cari memory be eternal. May God always provide you and your family the strength and comfort to continue your positive avocation.
      I was just hit by a drunk driver 8 days ago. I was parked on my HD trike and a 28yr old drunk driver came off the road and ran into the back of my trike pushed me 1 block through 2 mailboxes to then release me rear end off her bumper and veered back on the road leaving my trike to flip and send me 500ft backwards before landing. She left the scene hence a witness chased her with Sheriff and caught her. She blew a .288 and it was 11:30 in the morning.
      No bodily injury,PIP not her once rodeo and she is a mother of a young boy.
      I am alive and recovering however I am looking to advocate

  3. Kerri says:

    I always remembered Cari’s story. I was born in 1969, and grew up in Citrus Heights near Fair Oaks and Old Auburn. I got chills reading that he hit another girl with a name as your daughters.
    I don’t remember the month, but somewhere around Fall 1982/Spring 1983 (I am truly fuzzy on the time), I was hit by a drunk driver at the corner of Hansen and Sunrise. That driver I remember his name was Larry. My name is Kerri. We had poor lawyer representation as my parents did not understand how to pursue these things. I had a broken arm, having been thrown some 50 feet ahead into a ditch. My bike was mangled under his truck. I went to roseville hospital. I just found the names too similar. I am lucky to be alive. I do not know what happened to the driver.

  4. Juanita says:

    I also grew up in Citrus Heights and attended the same church as you all did. I will never forget her story.

  5. […] learned that her 13-year-old daughter Cari was walking to a church festival with her girlfriend. A drunk driver hit Cari so hard that she flew 125 feet – her organs weren’t even fit for donation. The driver fled the scene. He went home and told […]

  6. Petrice Rimmer says:

    My son asked me about Cari this past weekend. I couldn’t believe it had been so many years. I had just moved to California from the Midwest. I had so much anxiety when I started at Barrett. Cari was so nice to me. She helped me relax and helped me with classes. She made me laugh. She was a life savor for me. She was an all around good person.
    I never forgot the Monday I came to school and heard what had happened! I was devastated!
    Almost a year later, April 9, 1981, I was hit by drunk driver at Greenback an Van Maren. Flew 80 feet in the air. Unfortunately I never found out who hit me.
    I thought about Cari from time to time over the years and how lucky I truly was to be alive and to have had her as a friend if only for a minute.
    Thank the Lord for her mother Candy and her determination to make monsters like Clarence Busch pay for their callous actions.

    • Stacey Frank says:

      Cari did the same for me when I started Barrett. I had just moved here from the Los Angeles area and was extremely shy. She lived a few house away from me and I was with her brother Travis, when we found out she passed away. It was absolutely devastating. I still live in the same house, pass by the same street, and visit Cari in the Fair Oaks Cemetery on occasion.

  7. Elana Kemple says:

    I my son Jason and my Julie were driving when our light was green a drunk/impaired driver t-boned us at a high speed killing my 14yr old Julie because he believed he would make it through his redclight so he excellerated. He then revved up again and the front end of his truck went into the air hitting the traffic light and coming down on another car. The end result is two young lives are gone I and my son are critically injured . fast forward after several postponements the dd went before the judge and jury and in 5 days and 2hours later he is charged with 2 counts first degree murder eligible parole in 2047. He has appealed 9 times and denude 9 times. The judge also ordered 75,000 in restitution to me and the other family. I’m still waiting . my son Jason ultimately physically recovered .I ultimately became a pysch therapist mentor firmer volunteer with GSSAC very proud to feel I made a small difference.I could have taken my trauma and tragic loss of my child in hateful and revengeful ways but then I hear my Julies voice that says MOM don’t be like your offenders be the change be the difference

  8. Asad Habib says:

    Execute the drunk drivers. A life for a life. Period.

    • Robert Coseky says:

      Exactly. People who drive drunk don’t give a shit about themselves, or anyone else in the world. I know that sounds very condescending and jaded, however, I have been a psychiatric/Detox RN for 13 years, thus I have much experience in the head, ego and superego of these types of patients/individuals. when one has gone to the point that they are committing a crime, and get caught for it, they need and want to be caught. My point is if someone is driving drunk, so significantly impaired, that they can’t even focus on not hitting something or someone, or being aware of Police/Patrol cars, then they’ve come to a point where they need significant help in their life. Unfortunately in America, we give criminals equal rights as law abiding citizens. It’s pretty infuriating. If you’ve ever seen the movie, the purge, you know.

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