A beautiful voice, a beautiful light lost to this world

Krystal Kazmark’s sudden passing in a tragic, preventable car crash left an irreplaceable space in the hearts of her parents, Mary and Craig Kazmark, and her brother Kyle.  

Krystal performed an inspirational song of tribute to her classmates at the Palos Verdes High School graduation in 2013.  But, on July 25, 2020, the light went out instantly for this young lady who was so vibrant and full of life. She was a California girl.

Krystal’s vocal talent and passion for performing brought joy to those fortunate enough to hear her. Her spirit was captured best in her performances. That’s why her family and friends chose to honor her memory by creating a scholarship to provide aspiring singers from her high school who would be majoring in voice.

Though singing was a large part of Krystal’s life, she also was a lover of lakes and water sports, especially wakeboarding and waterskiing. One of her true loves was snow skiing — which brought her to Mammoth Lakes in Mono County.  She was working there at the time of her death. Krystal was a passenger in a pickup truck driven by her boyfriend on a rural road. He collided with another vehicle, at first claiming he had seen an unknown animal. His truck was smashed, and Krystal died instantly. He sustained injuries, along with the other passenger, the other driver, and two passengers in the other car.

How justice plays out for the victims

Investigators concluded that Krystal’s boyfriend lied about trying to avoid an animal and was likely under the influence at the time of the crash. At first, they cited him with a felony: murder; and DUI drugs and alcohol causing injuries.

According to a probation report, the driver said he was “a ‘habitual’ cannabis user,” and disclosed that “he had smoked a ‘couple of bowls’ of cannabis earlier in the day” of the accident. But, like some drivers who heavily use marijuana, he believed this usage did not cause him to be impaired.

Krystal’s parents had warned man not to drive after using marijuana. “I even confronted him once when he was smoking and he was going to be driving, and I reminded him that he’s got my daughter in the car, and I told him that if he ever did anything that harmed her, I would haunt him, and I’m the one being haunted now,” Mary Kazmark told CBS News, Los Angeles.

Court records show they found 18 nanograms of THC in the guilty driver’s blood, well above the legal limit set in most states.  But California doesn’t set a limit. Colorado imposes a limit of 5 nanograms per se, but someone may be impaired below that limit. The .08 alcohol limit works well for measuring alcohol impairment, but marijuana impairment can’t be quantified as accurately. Cannabis advocates understand the lack of an easy way to measure THC impairment and lawyers take advantage of the problem. 

“Getting away with murder”

The driver ended up being charged with just a misdemeanor. He pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in jail.

The Kazmarks would like California to put limits into the law so that others would think twice before getting behind the wheel.

“I think he’s getting away with murder. He murdered somebody, he’s going to get away with it,” Craig Kazmark said on a CBS News segment that aired on March 6, 2023. 

(Editor’s Note: A group of experts from California Highway Patrol met from 2018-2021 and came up with 31 recommendations to stop THC-impaired driving, none of which have been adopted by California.)