Speaking in halting tones, and at times shedding tears, a handful of families helped launch a state website Monday as a memorial to those killed in Minnesota traffic accidents.

The site, www.minnesotacrashvictims.org, is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, state public safety officials said.

"The stories on this website do more than present the traffic statistics," said Cheri Marti, the state's traffic safety director. "These are the faces behind the statistics.

"The personal stories resonate with visitors far greater than stats and numbers," she said.

Marti spoke as a half-dozen family members stood alongside her, with one reaching for a tissue as the website was unveiled. Overhead, TV monitors displayed the website, which said that "these are the stories of Minnesota crash victims -- reasons and reminders to always drive safely."

Amy Stein held a picture of her son, Evan, 18, who was killed last September while a passenger in a car driven by his girlfriend in Isanti County.

"This tragedy has left a hole in my family that is irreplaceable," Stein said. After seeing her son graduate from high school at the beginning of the summer, she said, "I planned his funeral the week after Labor Day weekend.

"The last memory I have of him is him giving me a wink and a sideways peace sign," she added.

Two daughters, Jen Castillo and Jessica Weber, talked of the 2005 death of their father, Chuck LaChance, who was killed when a tire fell off a passing truck and crashed into his vehicle on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis. Castillo said she now worries every time her husband and children get into a car.

Brian Pollock talked of the loss of his daughter Alyssa on her 15th birthday. She was a passenger in a car that flipped into a ditch near Willmar, Minn., her father said. Pollock acknowledged that she was not wearing a seat belt. She was, he said, "just starting life."

More than half of the 400 motorists killed in Minnesota each year are not wearing seat belts, state officials said.

Denise Schnabel of Monticello said her father, Robert Forrer, was killed in August 2009 while they were rollerblading near Pequot Lakes. "The car obviously did not see us," she said. "He was struck and killed instantly.

"This is a place," Schnabel said of the website, "where people are not going to forget."

Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673