Footprints Beachside Recovery Center Founder Shares His Past with NBC

By Candace McCowan – WFLA – NBC News Channel 8

John Templeton said he couldn’t watch the cell phone video taken of the wrong way driver on I-275 from this weekend.

“I really got goose bumps. I couldn’t believe something like this happened again. 11-years ago that guy was me,” said Templeton.

Templeton, who is now 30, got onto I-275 in November 2002 driving the wrong direction. He had been out earlier in the night drinking with friends but doesn’t remember getting in his car, driving on the wrong side of the highway, or the crash.

“I woke up hand cuffed to a hospital gurney at St. Joseph’s Hospital and I realized life had changed. Really in a black out I drove the wrong way on 275 as a 19-year-old and I hit somebody directly head-on who was just an innocent victim in the wrong place at the wrong time,” explained Templeton.

Templeton hit and killed 18-year-old Julie Buckner.

“As a young person we often think it will never happen to us, or we will never be involved, or we are never capable of doing something so horrible,” added Templeton.

Templeton said his accident in 2002 and the accident over the weekend that left four USF students dead are similar. Templeton was a USF student when his accident happened. And the accidents happened on I-275 just miles away from each other.

Now every day Templeton said he has to live with the decision he made to drink and drive.

“Every day I wake up knowing the choice that I made that night and how it impacted and changed this young girl. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Julie Buckner, what would she be doing right now at this moment with her life.”

After Buckner’s family forgave Templeton, he was sentenced to two years in prison, two years on house arrest, 11 years probation, and 1,000 hours of community service. He now works at his family’s substance abuse center, Footprints Beachside Recovery.

After seeing the accident from over the weekend, Templeton wanted to share his story in hopes that someone will make a better decision than he did.

“I try to do something bigger than myself and I campaign against drinking and driving. I feel like it’s my obligation when I see things like this happen to stand up and say ‘if you don’t think it can happen to you, it can.'”