At a time when a Portage family would be asking what their sister and daughter planned for her 24th birthday, they are instead planning a celebration for the life that ended Saturday after a crash in Fairfield.
Ashley Slama, of Portage, was identified by her brother, Treyton Schommer, and mother, Sarah Breezer, as the person who the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office reported was found dead after being partially pinned in the rollover crash.
Breezer said waking up to the jarring sound of knocking on her door in the early morning hours was life changing. Three days later, it still doesn’t feel real.
“I am waiting desperately for my daughter to walk back through that door,” Breezer said. “There is nothing in this world that I wouldn’t give to get her home, to have my wildly beautiful, long-haired beauty walk through that door and say, ‘Hey Mom, I’m home.’ I know that’s not reality, I know that’s not going to happen. I still feel like I’m waiting for her to come home.”
According to information released by the sheriff’s office, a deputy pulled over a vehicle just before 2:30 a.m. Saturday for an alleged traffic violation on County Highway T, east of County Highway A in Delton.
The driver of the car reportedly fled with two passengers inside as the deputy approached. When the vehicle took off, the deputy returned to his squad but did not pursue the driver, telling dispatch over the radio and remaining at that parked spot “for several minutes.”
According to the sheriff’s office, the deputy started driving east on County T, going around a curve and into the town of Fairfield when he saw the vehicle that had left the scene of the traffic stop in the ditch sitting on its roof near the woods.
The deputy found Slama, partially pinned under the vehicle, already dead. Another passenger, who Breezer said was Ryen Swiatly, 24, of Portage, was found by the deputy feet away from the crashed vehicle. He was reportedly severely injured and taken to UW Hospital in Madison via MedFlight.
The driver, an unidentified man who Breezer said Slama didn’t know well, left the scene of the crash. According to a press release from Sauk County Sheriff Chip Meister, the man was arrested about 7 hours later when someone called police after the driver showed up at their home around 9:30 a.m. asking for help.
“My feelings are, ‘Was my daughter’s life worth less than a ticket to you?” Breezer said she would ask the driver. “I want to know what you were thinking.”
Breezer said she hopes the driver lives with the weight of his actions.
“I know my daughter, I know she would have been freaking out and I know she would have been screaming,” Breezer said. “I hope he hears her screaming. I hope when he closes his eyes that he sees what happened, because he left her there. He left Ryen lying in a ditch. He didn’t even try to get them help.”
The crash is under investigation by the Wisconsin State Patrol. No charges have been filed as of Tuesday.
Neither Schommer nor Breezer said they could truly express their grief. Breezer said since she learned of her daughter’s death it has been like a “roller coaster,” with one moment of extreme sadness to the next of total numbness.
“You’re going to catch me crying so bad I can’t talk or I have literally stepped out of my body, frozen,” Breezer said. “I’m just numb.”
Schommer said Slama struggled with alcohol addiction, but she had been making progress and had gotten treatment. She was sober for 312 days on the day she died. Breezer said her oldest daughter wanted to help others who had their own problems with substance abuse and had hoped to start a job in that field after a full year off alcohol. Now the family aims to ensure that Slama helps others, even in death.
The family set up a GoFundMe page to gather funds for funeral expenses. Breezer said she doesn’t want to benefit financially from her daughter’s death and instead has been looking to see how she can work with local officials to help someone recover from their own addiction. They plan to use any money left over after funeral costs for that goal.
“I don’t want everything she went through to be for nothing,” Breezer said. “If she can change one family’s life by her story, all the struggles she went through...My daughter’s life is not going to be for nothing.”
Slama, who would have been 24 years old July 13, was “free-spirited,” Breezer said. She loved children and animals and had a headstrong, caring personality.
“She loved deep and she loved hard,” Breezer said.
Instead of a birthday celebration next week, the family is organizing a celebration of life for Slama. Schommer said her favorite place was Devil’s Lake State Park. The family encouraged everyone who wants to take part in remembering Slama to attend Tuesday.
“Knowing that the day we’re supposed to be celebrating her birthday we’re actually holding a memorial of life in her honor; it’s dumbfounding,” Schommer said.
As for the oncoming legal proceedings, Schommer said the family plans to ensure the driver of that vehicle receives a proper sentence for his actions.
“I want everyone to know my family will not stop until justice is served for my sister,” Schommer said. “I will not stop until a lot, a lot, a lot of people know exactly who Ashley Slama was because that soul was taken away and that soul was about to do amazing things.”
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