(Orange, Texas)

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January 15, 2013

TX parents lobby for tougher DUI laws in ND

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The parents of two Texas boys killed when a pickup truck ran over their tent in a North Dakota campground last summer have returned to North Dakota to lobby the state Legislature for tougher drunken driving laws.

Alaries Ruiz, 5, and Cyris Ruiz, 9, were sleeping in their tent at Hahn's Bay Campground at Lake Metigoshe near the Canadian border when a drunken driver lost control of his speeding pickup on a gravel road, ran over their tent and crashed into a tree, authorities say. Juan Acosta, 31, of Newburg, awaits an April trial on felony charges of manslaughter and reckless endangerment. His attorney declined comment.

The boys' parents, Juan Ruiz and his wife, Sandy Hernandez, plan to share their story with lawmakers at the Capitol in Bismarck during Law Enforcement Day on Wednesday, the Grand Forks Herald reported ( ).

"A lot died with them that night," said Juan Ruiz, who also was in the tent and was injured, along with a third boy. "Yes, I'm here. I survived. But for my boys and for other people, for other families, I want to see more awareness, stiffer penalties, more shame.

"No words or actions are going to bring our little ones back," he said. "But I have to do this to find some kind of peace. I feel this is all that's keeping me sane."

Several bills aimed at toughening North Dakota's driving-under-the-influence laws are expected to be introduced this year in the North Dakota Legislature. One bill, introduced late Monday by Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-Fargo, and backed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, would establish a mandatory minimum jail sentence of four days and a $750 fine for a first drunken driving offense.

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