Harris County Drunk Driving Chronicle

Michael GrossmanAugust 13, 2018 26 minutes

Texas continues to be infamous for leading the country in drunk driving fatalities. Partly due to its size, but also due to a high rate of drunk driving, Harris County (primarily Houston) contributes more to that dubious distinction than any other jurisdiction in the state.

In an ideal world, we would be able to analyze, highlight and draw attention to every single drunk driving accident in Houston, but we only have the resources to address a relatively small number of them in depth. However, we firmly believe that the victims of drunk driving crashes should be acknowledged and their stories told. The thinking behind this project is simple: If we are too overwhelmed by the sheer number of horrific drunk driving accidents in Houston, then perhaps the shock of seeing such a long list might illustrate to the general public just how terrible and urgent this problem is. In an effort to do that, Grossman Law Offices will maintain a running chronicle of some notable Houston-area drunk driving accidents.

Crashes in Harris County, TX: 2018

2017 was a grim year for DUI crashes; the accounts we added are only a small fraction of those that occurred in Harris County.

Naturally we hope 2018 will be the year to break the cycle, but pragmatically we have to think that might not be the case. As such, we will continue our ongoing chronicle of drunk driving crashes in Harris County, as a way to highlight some specific examples of a much larger problem.

August 12: A head-on crash early Sunday morning killed one person and left another facing intoxication manslaughter charges.

Investigators say that Rafael Escobar was speeding west in the center lane of Farm-to-Market Road 529 just before 3:30 a.m. As he approached the 13400 block of the road, his vehicle crashed directly into a 2006 Buick Lacrosse.

The force of the crash critically injured the Buick's unnamed driver. Emergency personnel rushed him to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Escobar was also taken to the hospital as well for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries and will be booked into Harris County Jail upon his release.

August 12: A flaming single-vehicle wreck claimed the life of a Houston driver in western Harris County very early Sunday morning.

Just on the Sunday side of midnight around 12:15 a.m., a westbound driver was speeding along the Katy Freeway feeder road. As the vehicle approached the West Sam Houston Parkway it lost control.

The vehicle skidded off the road and crashed through an iron fence before rolling on its side and bursting into flames.

The unnamed driver, 57, died inside the car of their severe burns. Authorities did not confirm that intoxication was a factor, but the fact pattern relayed by the news suggests that may be the case.

July 26: Two high school students were fatally injured in a DWI crash on Wednesday. While most Harris County crashes I document happen in Houston itself, several other cities, including this crash's site of Atascocita, lie within Harris County's borders.

Authorities say the single-vehicle wreck happened in the evening around the 18300 block of Timber Forest Drive. 17-year-old Jaggar Smith is said to have lost control of his speeding Nissan Altima, running off the road and smashing into some trees.

The force of the Altima's impact with the trees split the car in half and instantly killed 16-year-old Chloe Robison, one of two passengers in the vehicle. Salma Gomez, the other passenger and also 16, was taken by emergency personnel to a nearby hospital where she died. Jaggar Smith suffered only minor injuries. All three teens were said to have worn their seat belts during the ride.

Smith later confessed to consuming "a whole bottle of MD (Mad Dog) 20/20" before driving that day. He is charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter.

July 15: A Sunday morning crash near the Houston Galleria killed one motorcyclist and injured two others.

According to investigators the wreck happened around 3 a.m. As the three motorcycle riders exited Loop 610 at Richmond Avenue, a BMW driver crashed into their cycles.

The first rider hit was thrown from his Suzuki cycle and was pronounced dead at the scene. The other two riders suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to an area hospital for treatment.

The BMW driver fled the scene after hitting the motorcyclists. Officers located the vehicle and driver a short time later and charged the driver with DWI.

July 14, evening: A high school football coach and health teacher was involved in a fatal crash Saturday evening that took the life of a 70-year-old Houston man.

Investigators say Tirone Curtis, an educator at Cypress Lakes High School, was on West Road in northwest Harris County around 9:45 p.m. As he approached Easton Commons, his vehicle struck a pedestrian, killing him on impact.

Curtis fled the scene after hitting the pedestrian but later returned, admitting to authorities that he hit the man and also that he had consumed alcohol earlier that evening. He was arrested for DWI and Failure to Stop and Render Aid.

July 14, morning: A pickup truck and a car fatally collided on Loop 610 Saturday morning.

Police report the wreck happened around 3 a.m. when the two vehicles crashed on 610's exit ramp toward U.S. Highway 290, also called the Northwest Freeway. According to witnesses the car's driver was weaving erratically through traffic when his car ran into the truck, causing it to roll over several times.

The truck's driver was ejected from his vehicle as it flipped; he was pronounced dead at the scene. The car that caused the accident was disabled by the crash, so its driver attempted to flee the scene on foot. He jumped off the freeway ramp to the road below and ran to a nearby gas station. Police found him at that location and took him into custody.

This crash, like one I recently wrote about, does not categorically state that the offending driver was charged with DWI. Again, however, the fact pattern presented (early morning crash, driver weaving through traffic, an attempt to flee the scene after the accident) suggest the defendant was likely intoxicated.

July 12: A three-car crash in southwest Houston caused at least two serious injuries Thursday night.

The wreck happened at roughly 12:15 a.m. when an unnamed driver ran through a stop sign at the intersection of Kirby and West Orem Drives. After running the sign the car hit an eastbound Cadillac on West Orem, knocking it off-course into a Jeep that was stopped on the other side of the intersection.

It's unclear which people from which vehicles were taken to local hospitals for their injuries, but at least two people were confirmed to have been taken from the scene in ambulances.

This accident is different from many I've recorded over time in that specific DWI allegations weren't made at the time of the initial reports. However, if we examine the known facts of the crash (early morning, someone ran a stop sign) there is a strong likelihood that intoxication was a factor.

July 1: A late-night crash on Sunday nearly took the life of a north Houston pedestrian.

An unnamed but allegedly drunken driver was eastbound on Mitchell Road when he struck the male pedestrian. At the time of the crash the man was on the side of the road near Fieldworth Drive.

The driver didn't stop to render aid, driving several more blocks before the crash damage disabled his vehicle. At that point the driver abandoned his vehicle and fled on foot, but witnesses reported his whereabouts to the police.

Officers took the man into custody, and he faces charges of DWI and intoxication assault. The pedestrian he hit was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

June 26: A crash in southeast Houston killed a woman and injured her two children on Tuesday night.

Investigators say the Elvia Rodriguez and her children, ages 10 and 16, were stopped in a Mazda sedan at the intersection of Calhoun Road and Pershing Street around 9 p.m. At that time a Chevy Silverado pickup truck driven by 32-year-old Mark Charlot, speeding and swerving erratically, crashed into the Mazda 626.

Police would later say that Charlot lost control of his truck, hit a curb near a bus stop at the intesection, and slammed into the Mazda's driver's side, killing its driver. The two children in the car were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Mark Charlot was charged with intoxication manslaughter.

June 19: A man caused a three-vehicle crash Tuesday night in northwest Houston, causing injury to multiple parties.

According to Houston police, 19-year-old Fredy Martinez ran a red light at the intersection of Long Point and Bingle roads. Eastbound, his Ford F-150 pickup truck then hit a Nissan Sentra headed north on Bingle Road. The collision caused the pickup to roll several times before it ran into another F-150, stopped in the westbound lanes of Long Point.

A 19-year-old man was charged with intoxication assault after police said he ran a red light Tuesday night and caused a three-vehicle crash in northwest Houston. Martinez and his passenger were both thrown out of the truck by the second collision.

The passenger from Martinez's pickup suffered critical injuries and was transported to a nearby hospital. Martinez was also taken to the hospital, as were the two 18-year-olds in the Nissan Sentra, with unspecified injuries. The driver of the second F-150 wasn't injured.

Martinez faces charges of intoxication assault.

June 2: A wrong-way crash in Houston critically injured and hospitalized a man early Saturday morning.

Houston police said the three-vehicle wreck happened around 2:30 a.m. on Interstate 45 near West Dallas Street. A woman traveling north against traffic on the interstate's southbound side crashed into three vehicles during this time. The driver, 28-year-old Nicole Bertoldi, allegedly struck the first victim head-on before sideswiping a second vehicle and clipping a third with what remained of her momentum.

The first crash sent an unnamed 67-year-old man to Ben Taub hospital with critical injuries. A woman in the second car suffered minor injuries and was also taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Bertoldi admitted to police at the scene that she was drinking before she got behind the wheel that night. She was charged with intoxicated assault and is still recovering from her injuries in the hospital.

UPDATE: Later stories revealed the name of the 67-year-old victim as Mr. Billy Allen of Harris County. Allen died of his injuries in Ben Taub hospital on June 16; the charges against Nicole Bertoldi were upgraded to intoxication manslaughter.

May 25: Early Friday morning, a bus operated by the Houston Police Department was involved in a crash with a suspected drunk driver.

The wreck happened downtown around 3:30 a.m. at the intersection of Polk and Chartres Streets.

At the time of the accident the prison bus was transporting eleven inmates from the city jail to the county jail. Authorities state a driver allegedly caused the crash after turning illegally and traveling the wrong way down a one-way street. He reportedly failed a field sobriety test at the scene.

Some inmates reportedly suffered minor injuries and were taken to Ben Taub Hospital for evaluation.

May 21: An early-morning crash on the Southwest Freeway Monday has been attributed to a possible drunk driver.

Authorities suggest the driver, whom they suspect was intoxicated, ran into another vehicle on the freeway at Hillcroft Street. The second vehicle then slammed into the back of a fire truck that coincidentally was on the freeway at that time.

The collision caused the second vehicle's driver to become pinned under the truck. He was extracted by first responders and taken to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. No firefighters were hurt by the collision.

The suspect stopped at the scene and notified the police about the crash. Officers on the scene determined that the driver who caused the wreck smelled of alcohol. He was detained on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

May 10: An alleged drunk-driving wreck near the Johnson Space Center took one man's life Thursday night.

Houston police said the single-vehicle crash happened around 9 p.m. in the 18600 block of Space Center Boulevard. Two men in a pickup truck were involved in a minor collision shortly before the incident and had sped away north from the scene. The pickup's driver lost control, crossed over the median, and drove into oncoming traffic before crashing into a metal obstruction. The truck then rolled and briefly went airborne before coming to rest in a nearby grassy area.

In the course of the crash both the driver and passenger of the pickup were ejected from the vehicle. They were taken to the hospital, where the passenger died of his injuries. The unnamed driver is expected to survive but likely will faced intoxication manslaughter charges.

People who were with the two men on the day of the crash told police they had been drinking before the wreck. Witnesses from the earlier minor accident said the driver was weaving erratically before the collision.

April 7: A crash in northwest Houston took the life of one driver and saw another arrested on charges of intoxication manslaughter.

According to authorities, the wreck occurred around 7:45 p.m. on Hempstead Road. Witnesses allegedly saw 25-year-old Cory Jinks weaving through southbound traffic at a high rate of speed in a Dodge Ram.

Jinks' truck soon entered the road's northbound lanes and collided head-on with a Mazda vehicle, killing its unnamed driver.

Police indicate that Jinks was taken to a hospital for treatment of serious injuries. While there, he was tested and found to be intoxicated. He was then charged with intoxication manslaughter.

March 25: Two major accidents happened consecutively Sunday morning, killing one motorist and injuring several more.

Deputies from the Harris County Sheriff's Office say the initial crash happened around 2 a.m. on Farm-to-Market Road 1960 near Aldine Westfield Road. A westbound Chevy pickup traveled west at a high rate of speed and ran into the back of a Toyota Corolla headed the same direction.

The sedan, carrying three people at the time, spun out on the roadway and split in half. Its driver Shane Laniyo was pronounced dead at the scene. The two other occupants, Nasima Uddin and Kilroy Igisair-Fitial, were taken to the hospital with severe injuries.

Deputies said the driver of the pickup stopped and exited the vehicle after the crash. Witnesses to the accident said he appeared intoxicated, as his speech was slurred and his walk unbalanced. He fled from the scene of the crash and has not yet been apprehended.

Police and medical personnel were called to the scene; as police inspected the crash, several tow trucks were used to block the lanes' use by passing traffic. A few minutes after their arrival and placement, a westbound SUV collided with three of the tow trucks. A passenger in one of the tow trucks, Armando Rosa, suffered broken ribs and was taken to the hospital.

The SUV's unnamed driver had to be extricated from its destroyed frame by firefighters. He was then taken to a hospital where he was tested for intoxication. The results aren't yet available.

March 23: A fatal hit-and-run crash in the Spring region of Harris County led to the arrest of two suspects on Friday.

According to authorities, 68-year-old bicyclist Donna Lowe was riding with a group of cyclists in Pundt Park around 9 a.m. Lowe was struck by a fast-moving vehicle as she tried to cross the intersection at Spring Creek Drive.

The force of the impact killed Lowe at the scene. The vehicle's driver, 37-year-old Phillip Trahan, tried to speed away from the scene but crashed into some trees a short distance away. He and his passenger, 44-year-old Angel Escobar, fled into the woods from the crash site. The pair were later apprehended by K-9 officers searching the woods.

When apprehended, Phillip Trahan showed signs of intoxication. He was charged with Failure to Stop and Render Aid and Intoxication Manslaughter--both felonies. Angel Escobar was charged with Failure to Report a Felony, a Class A misdemeanor.

March 11: Following a multi-vehicle crash that killed one and injured several more, 26-year-old Elmer Quintanilla was arrested by deputies of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

According to information from the office, the wreck occurred around 1 p.m. in the 8900 block of the Sam Houston Parkway (Beltway 8) near West Road. Quintanilla allegedly lost control of his GMC Sierra pickup while exiting the toll road. He hit another vehicle which rolled over and ran into a large brick sign, killing its driver on impact.

Quintanilla's truck continued rolling, running into another vehicle as it pulled out of a church parking lot. It didn't come to a stop until it struck three more vehicles in the lot.

The driver exiting the church lot was taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries. Quintanilla's wife and three small children (6yo, 5yo, 13mo) were in the truck with him at the time of the collisions. All of them were taken to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Investigators at the scene determined that Quintanilla was operating his truck while intoxicated. Because he was doing so with children under the age of 15 in his car, the charge was upgraded to a felony. To compound that charge, he caused the death of another driver in the commission of that felony. This means the standard intoxication manslaughter charges often associated with fatal crashes were actually upgraded to murder charges.

March 10: A fatal accident brought Harris County Sheriff's deputies out to Hidden Valley early Saturday.

Investigators say the crash happened close to 3 a.m. near the intersection of West Mount Houston Road and Veterans Memorial Drive. The driver of a southbound Hyundai Elantra, Andres Valdez, failed to stop at the intersection's red light and crashed into the passenger side of a westbound Lincoln Town Car.

The Town Car's driver Marco Antonio Frias Jr. was taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries and is expected to survive. The driver's father Marco Antonio Frias, a passenger in the car, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Andres Valdez was uninjured, but he allegedly refused to take a field sobriety test and showed signs of intoxication (slurred speech, belligerence, smelled of alcohol) at the scene. He was arrested on intoxication manslaughter charges.

February 28: A DUI crash in Clear Lake (southeast of Houston) led to the deaths of 36-year-old Shayla Joseph and her 3-month-old son Braylan Jabari Joseph.

According to investigators the crash occurred just before 4 a.m. on the southbound feeder road of the Gulf Freeway near El Dorado Boulevard. Veronica Rivas, 20, was speeding south in her Lincoln SUV when she crashed into the rear of a Toyota Scion.

Mrs. Joseph and her son were pronounced dead at the scene. Rivas and her unnamed 17-year-old passenger were taken to the hospital for treatment of some broken bones.

Rivas was later arrested on two counts of intoxication manslaughter. Her blood alcohol content (BAC) was determined to be .21--almost triple the legal limit. A witness at the crash scene indicated that Rivas mentioned drinking at a bar earlier that night, right before the wreck.

February 19: A fatal motorcycle crash early Monday morning left several lanes closed as responders cleaned up the scene.

Information is a little sparse, but investigators say the wreck happened around 3:30 a.m. on southbound Interstate 45 near Parker Road. The motorcycle's rider and the driver of a pickup truck were racing in the morning's early hours when they collided for unknown reasons.

The motorcyclist slid across the freeway's lanes onto the shoulder and died of his injuries at the scene. The driver of the truck became trapped under the vehicle and had to be pulled free. He was then taken to a hospital with serious injuries, but is expected to survive.

*Update: Investigators have pieced together a different story than was initially reported. Police now say that 44-year-old Rodolfo Flores-Granados was speeding southward in his Chevy Silverado pickup at about 2:35 a.m. He lost control of the truck, struck a cement guardrail, went airborne, and hit a Honda motorcycle, overturning after the collision.

The unnamed motorcyclist, a 62-year-old male, was pronounced dead at the scene. Flores-Granados was taken to the hospital for treatment of his injuries; during his stay police confirmed he was intoxicated at the time of the crash.

February 11: While responding to a different wreck on U.S. 59 in Humble, police at the scene witnessed a separate fatal collision.

Investigators say that police were at the site of an earlier wreck on the freeway that blocked its far right lane. Around 3:45 a.m. a tow truck arrived at the scene, parking behind the police vehicle to help provide extra cover to the officer as he worked.

Shortly after the tow truck's arrival a white Nissan passenger vehicle failed to leave the blocked right lane, slamming into the rear of the two truck. The collision killed the driver of the Nissan and caused moderate injuries to the driver and passenger in the truck, who were taken to the hospital for treatment.

The officer was not hurt.

February 10: Deputies from the Harris County sheriff's office say an intoxicated driver caused a crash that resulted in major traumatic injury to 5-year-old Leilani Palmer.

The crash happened late in the evening on Saturday. According to Leilani's mother Esmerelda Palmer, the girl was riding in a car with her aunt behind the wheel. As they drove south on Interstate 45, another vehicle driven by 22-year-old Otis Stone hit their car near Louetta Road.

Leilani's aunt and Stone suffered minor injuries. Unfortunately, Leilani's car seat broke from the force of the impact and she was gravely injured. As of late February, the 5-year-old was in a coma at Children's Memorial Hermann hospital. She has undergone at least three surgeries to treat her injuries.

Prosecutors have charged Otis Stone with intoxication assault. He was released on $5,000 bond and awaits his next court appearance in March.

February 9: A drunk driver took a life Friday night in Cypress. His history of prior DWI convictions led prosecutors to escalate the charges to felony murder.

According to reports from the Harris County Sheriff's Department, 45-year-old Owen Franklin McNett ran a stop sign at the intersection of Tegle Road and Boudreaux Road in Cypress around 8 p.m. Having entered the intersection in his Dodge Ram, he then crashed into a Buick Verano driven by 54-year-old Wayne Childers.

The collision took both vehicles off the road, and the pair ended up in a ditch. Wayne Childers died of his injuries at the scene; McNett was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Investigating officers found alcohol in McNett's pickup, and initially said he would be charged with intoxication manslaughter. However, Harris County prosecutors took into account McNett's multiple prior DWI convictions (possibly as many as four) and chose to upgrade the charges to felony murder.

February 8: Police responded to a fatal three-vehicle crash early Thursday morning.

According to representatives from the Houston Police Department, the wreck happened before 6:30 a.m. near the intersection of Almeda and Reed roads.

A northbound Volvo allegedly crossed into Almeda Road's southbound lanes in front of an 18-wheeler. The big rig struck the Volvo on its front passenger side before continuing forward and hitting a pickup truck.

The semi-truck finally stopped nearby on some railroad tracks. The Volvo overturned from the force of the impact, and its unnamed female driver died at the scene. The pickup truck's driver was treated by a private doctor for unspecified injuries, and the 18-wheeler's driver went to a local hospital for evaluation.

Police have not confirmed any specific factors that might have caused the Volvo's initial crossover. The investigation continues.

Crashes in Harris County, TX: 2017

Even in shorter form, it's unfortunately not possible to relate the stories of the thousands injured and killed annually in DUI crashes in Harris County. We have chosen a small representative sample of victims' stories, related by the news, that involve some of the common elements we often see in drunk driving cases. Cases are posted in reverse chronological order, with the most recent first in the list:

December 24: A Houston woman fatally struck a pedestrian Sunday night on Christmas Eve.

Houston police say an unidentified man was crossing the road in the 9800 block of Mesa Drive when he was struck by a red Nissan Rogue, driven by 55-year-old Maria Hernandez-Rosales.

Police say the pedestrian was not using a crosswalk when he was hit at approximately 7 p.m.

The 59-year-old pedestrian was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His identity will not be released until his family has been notified of his passing.

Authorities at the scene determined that Ms. Hernandez-Rosales had been drinking prior to the crash and charged her with driving while intoxicated.

December 10: A fatal crash occurred in downtown Houston early Sunday morning.

Officers with the Houston PD said that a speeding Nissan SUV ran a red light on northbound Houston Avenue. In the intersection of that light, the SUV crashed into a Ford Fusion that was making a left from Washington Avenue.

The crash occurred around 2:30 a.m. and was caught on video by nearby cameras.

The Ford Fusion's driver was extricated from his vehicle by the Houston Fire Department. He was to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The driver and passenger in the Nissan were also taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. The passenger allegedly admitted to police that both of them were drinking prior to the crash. Intoxication manslaughter charges are pending against the driver.

December 7: A Houston man died at the scene of an intoxication crash Thursday night.

At approximately 10:15 p.m., a Chevy Equinox crashed into a semi-truck near the 13800 block of Beaumont Highway near the East Sam Houston Tollway access road. The crash occurred just as the tractor-trailer was passing through an intersection as the light changed.

Harris County deputies identified the Equinox's driver as Bethel Wagers III. After running into the trailer, Wagers allegedly stomped his brakes, swerving his SUV to the right and once again hitting the trailer at the back of its right passenger side. Wagers' passenger, Ryan Magras, died at the scene.

Deputies who arrived to the scene of the crash determined that Wagers was speeding and also was intoxicated at the time of the collision (his BAC was not published). He faces charges of intoxication manslaughter.

December 4: An intoxicated crash in Houston's Spring Branch West neighborhood led to fatal injuries.

Houston PD say that 43-year-old Lucia Tobar was headed north in the 2000 block of Gessner Road when she drifted out of her lane at approximately 7:40 p.m. Her Toyota Tacoma pickup truck struck a tree in the median, killing her front-seat passenger on impact and critically injuring a 42-year-old passenger in the back seat.

Tobar and the injured back seat passenger were taken to the hospital with undisclosed injuries, police said. At the hospital Tobar was determined to be intoxicated; she also admitted to investigators that she had been drinking prior to driving the pickup truck. She was booked on charges of intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault.

November 24: A fatal crash near George Bush International Airport late Friday night led to the court appearance of intoxicated driver Michael Stanberry-Lambert Saturday morning.

According to a release from the Harris County Sheriff's Office, 25-year-old Stanberry-Lambert had allegedly been drinking prior to veering off course at the intersection of FM 1960 Business and Kenswick Drive.

Stanberry-Lambert's semi truck collided with a pickup truck, pushing it over 200 feet down the road from the impact site. One of the pickup's passengers, Aaron Rincon, was killed when the vehicles collided. Two other passengers were taken to area hospitals with undisclosed injuries, as was the pickup's unnamed driver. Stanberry-Lambert was reportedly uninjured.

November 15: A teenager was killed Tuesday night in a fatal north Houston crash, leading to charges of intoxication manslaughter.

According to Houston Police, 27-year-old Daniel Martinez was driving west on Dipping Lane in his Dodge pickup when he ran a stop sign at the intersection with Fulton Street.

The truck hit a southbound Chevy Monte Carlo on Fulton, police said. The car's unnamed 17-year-old driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers at the crash determined that Daniel Martinez was driving while intoxicated and arrested him.

November 13: Houston driver Luis Mendez, 24, was arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter after his vehicle struck a retaining wall on the South Sam Houston Parkway West service road.

Mendez's Hyundai Elantra was on its way south from U.S. Highway 59 when it veered into the wall around 3:40 a.m.

Police say the vehicle's backseat passenger, Simon Perez-Cortez, was killed by the impact and was pronounced dead at the scene. Mendez and a passenger in the front seat were taken to the hospital. Mendez was later determined to have been intoxicated at the time of the crash.

October 13: A motorist who ran out of gas on the Katy Freeway was struck by an allegedly drunk driver Friday night.

Houston police officers stated that the fatal crash happened around 9 p.m. near Barker Cypress Road. A man driving a Chevy Impala ran out of fuel on the freeway; stopping in the right lane of the road, he called his wife for assistance. She and the couple's two children arrived a short time later with some extra gas for his car.

The unidentified man started filling his car's tank while his family waited nearby. As he knelt next to the Impala, a drunk driver plowed into him. Police say the man was gravely injured by the collision; he and his wife were rushed to a nearby hospital. He died shortly after arriving and his wife was placed under medical observation. Police did not state whether she or the children were physically injured.

The suspected DUI driver, not named in the police statement, was arrested after failing a field sobriety test. He will face intoxication manslaughter charges in the death of the victim.

October 8: Houston man Dale Rogers, 44, was charged with driving while intoxicated after a fatal auto-pedestrian collision in northwest Houston.

Police say that Rogers was northbound in the 900 block of West T C Jester Boulevard. At approximately 7:20 p.m., he allegedly struck and killed an unnamed pedestrian who was attempting to cross the street. The pedestrian was not using a crosswalk, according to authorities.

The pedestrian died from the impact. Rogers, who has no known prior offenses in Houston, was immediately taken into custody and charged with DWI.

October 7: A pedestrian was fatally struck during an attempt to cross the North Freeway after his own single-car accident on Saturday morning.

The Houston Police Department reported that the accident occurred around 3:20 a.m. on Interstate 45, close to the Beltway. The victim was northbound in a vehicle when he crashed into an inside barrier; he and his passenger exited the car and continued north on foot to seek help.

The passenger later told police that the driver spotted a different disabled vehicle across the highway's lanes. As he tried to cross the road to that car, he was fatally struck by a passing vehicle. The driver of that car did not stop.

The vehicle's passenger also admitted that he and the driver had been drinking prior to the initial crash. The investigation continues.

September 10: A rollover wreck in west Houston required the driver's rescue by firefighters.

Information is minimal, but authorities say an unidentified woman was driving south on Mid Lane around 1:30 Sunday morning. As she approached West Lane, her SUV slammed into a parked car. The collision caused her vehicle to rollover repeatedly, crumpling the car. When firefighters arrived at the scene, they had to cut the roof off the SUV to retrieve the driver.

The driver suffered injuries in the crash and was taken to a nearby hospital in stable condition. The cause of the crash isn't clear yet, but officers from the scene said that intoxication was a possible factor.

August 4, evening: An apparent red-light collision took the life of a motorcyclist late Friday night.

According to deputies from the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the wreck occurred in the 6100 block of Barker Cypress Road at approximately 11:30 p.m.

A southbound SUV attempted to make a left turn from Barker Cypress, at which time the northbound motorcyclist collided with the vehicle on its passenger side.

The motorcyclist was airlifted from the scene of the accident to a nearby hospital, but died there. The SUV's driver was not injured, but allegedly tested positive for intoxication and was arrested for DWI.

Investigators aren't yet sure whether the motorcycle or the SUV ran its respective red light.

August 4, morning: Early Friday morning, 38-year-old Joe Guerrero Jr. was westbound on South Sam Houston Parkway East when he made an abrupt lane change to get out of the Beamer Road exit lane.

In so doing, Guerrero crashed into several barrels that lined the exit ramp. He and his wife Kimberly, riding behind him, were thrown from their seats on the 2002 Harley Davidson.

When first responders arrived, the pair were lying face-down on the parkway. They were taken directly to a nearby hospital, where Guerrero's wife was pronounced dead. He himself was treated for serious injuries, and admitted to investigators that he'd had five drinks shortly before the crash. After his release from the hospital he was apprehended and charged with intoxication manslaughter.

July 31: A chain reaction crash near the Westpark Tollway early Monday morning caused one of the vehicles to burst into flames.

According to authorities, three of the four involved vehicles were stopped at a traffic light at the tollway's intersection with Hillcroft Road. A Hyundai Genesis approach the line of cars but failed to stop, slamming into the back of a Honda Pilot. Thanks to the merciless nature of physics, the collision pushed the Pilot forward into a taxi cab, which in turn was pushed forward into a Hyundai Sonata. During this time, the Honda Pilot caught fire.

Investigating police say the man driving the Genesis that originated the crash fled the scene, but didn't make it far before he was apprehended and charged with a DWI. Anticipating an argument about who was driving the car, police plan to remove the airbag from the Genesis and obtain DNA evidence to confirm he was behind the wheel.

Both occupants of the Honda Pilot managed to escape as the SUV began to burn; however, they were injured by the collision and were taken to a nearby hospital. The woman suffered minor injuries, but the man's kidney was lacerated and his back was punctured near his spine. He underwent surgery for his injuries.

July 28, evening: According to Houston police, two people were involved in a minor collision in northwest Houston on Friday night, but things escalated quickly into something much worse.

Around 9:30 p.m., the initial fender-bender occurred at Hempstead and West Tidwell. Officers say the driver at fault attempted to flee the scene of the crash. Witnesses reported he drove at high speeds down West Tidwell to Guhn Road, where he lost control of the vehicle. His car rebounded off a telephone pole, splitting it in half, then slammed into a tree.

A female passenger in his car was declared dead at the scene of the collision with the tree. The driver himself was transported to Ben Taub Hospital where he was listed in serious but stable condition.

Police determined that the suspect was intoxicated, and charges of Intoxication Manslaughter are expected to be brought in this matter.

July 28, morning: Around 3 a.m. Friday, two Houston Police officers were injured when an intoxicated driver forced them to jump off the Southwest Freeway overpass.

According to reports, DWI Task Force Officers Roshad Carter and Carlos Herrera were investigating an unrelated crash near Newcastle in the early morning. The officers had blocked the nearest exit ramp with their patrol vehicle.

At that time, 25-year-old Bianca Bennett drove by the patrol car and struck Officer Carter. In order to avoid more serious injury, he and Officer Herrera were forced to jump off the overpass, falling around 15 to the ground below.

Officer Carter was hospitalized with an ankle injury; Officer Herrera was treated and released. Two firefighters who had arrived on the scene to check on the victim of the initial accident were narrowly missed by Bennett's vehicle.

July 22: According to the Houston Police Department, an intoxicated driver in downtown Houston injured an officer by rear-ending his cruiser in the early morning.

The crash happened around 3:50 a.m. while the officer was on patrol, traveling west on Pease Street. The officer stopped at a red light at the road's intersection with San Jacinto Street.

As the light changed, the officer slowly accelerated, and at that time his cruiser was hit from behind by an orange Toyota Corolla. He was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital for non-life-threatening neck and back injuries. The Corolla was driven by an unidentified woman in her early 20's; she was found by scene responders to be intoxicated and will face charges.

July 9: A five-vehicle wreck on US Highway 290 near Beltway 8 sent four people to the hospital early Sunday morning.

According to crash victim Timothy Hernandez, he and his wife were on US-290 around 3 a.m. when a black SUV rapidly approached their vehicle near Beltway 8. He moved over to let the SUV pass, but the vehicle sideswiped his own car, then ricocheted into the wall of the highway.

Despite being shaken, Hernandez and his wife went to the SUV to check on its driver, who had exited the vehicle and circled around behind it. As the pair approached, the SUV and the driver were hit by a third car. Hernandez alleged that at least two other cars and a pair of motorcycles also ended up in the pile-up. While there were no known fatalities, one man was airlifted to the hospital and three others were taken by ambulance.

Investigating Deputies from the Harris County Sheriff's Office say that alcohol may have been a factor in the initial crash.

July 1: An unidentified family was seriously hurt in a crash in north Houston in the late evening on Saturday, July 1.

According to Houston police, an intoxicated man driving a Ford Mustang ran a red light and collided with the family's small SUV around 9 p.m. The crash spun both vehicles out of control and the SUV struck a light pole in the median of the North Freeway feeder road at West Parker.

The SUV was occupied by six people total--an adult couple and four young children aged 11, 9, 8, and 18 months. All members of the family were taken to Memorial Herman hospital. Two of the young children were reported in critical condition.

The driver of the Mustang was also taken to the hospital, where he was reported in stable condition. Tests revealed that the driver was intoxicated; he will face charges.

June 24: An unidentified woman was killed in northwest Harris County by a collision with an allegedly intoxicated driver.

Deputies from the Harris County Sheriff's Office say the wreck happened at approximately 1:15 a.m. At that time, the driver of a southbound Kia vehicle crashed into a Jeep on Highway 249 near Antoine Drive. The Jeep's female driver tried to get out of the vehicle at the scene of the collision, but the Jeep was then struck by a passing pickup truck. The force of the impact caused the Jeep to spin out of control; the woman died at the scene.

Deputies said that the Jeep's lights were not on when it was hit by the pickup truck. The truck's driver wasn't injured and likely won't face any charges. The man driving the Kia that caused the initial crash was taken to the hospital for his injuries, where he was found to be intoxicated. So far he faces DWI charges, but the crash appears to have involved either the Kia or the Jeep running a red light. If investigators determine that the Kia's drunk driver ran the light, his charges might be changed to Intoxication Manslaughter.

June 4: According to authorities, 26-year-old Elmer Jose Sandoval crossed into oncoming traffic at approximately 11:55 p.m. in Houston.

Sandoval's Lexus ES 300 was southbound on Galveston Road that night. Near its intersection with Witt Road, the car crossed the center line and collided with a Ford Expedition.

Sandoval's vehicle had four passengers: an unidentified female, a 6-year-old girl, a 5-year-old boy and a 3-year-old boy. After the collision, all five of the people from Sandoval's vehicle fled the scene in a white Cadillac. They were found shortly afterward at a nearby hospital, where the children were receiving treatment for unknown injuries. Three occupants from the Expedition also had to be taken to the hospital: the 34-year-old male driver, a 12-year-old boy and a 5-year-old boy. Their conditions are also unknown.

When found by police, Sandoval showed signs of impairment. He was arrested and charged with six counts of intoxication assault. The investigation continues.

April 24: Just after 2 a.m., a car and a pickup truck crashed at the Hardy Toll Road and Little York in northeast Houston.

Investigators believe the car was headed north on the Hardy Toll service road when it started to turn onto eastbound Little York. At that point the car was hit by the pickup, which was headed east.

Of the truck's four occupants at the time, one was killed and the other three were taken to the hospital with undisclosed injuries. The car's driver also had to be taken to the hospital.

At this point authorities are still investigating the cause of the collision, but they have stated the pickup truck might have run a red light, and that alcohol may have been involved.

April 12: Shortly before 1 a.m., authorities in the town of Porter arrived at the scene of a major accident near the intersection of State Highway 99 and Farm-to-Market Road 1314. While this are is technically in Montgomery County, north of Harris, it's close enough to warrant inclusion.

Fire and Rescue personnel discovered a severely damaged Chevy Malibu and, a short distance away, a Ford F-150 pickup with heavy damage to its front end. Preliminary accident reconstruction suggested that the Malibu was southbound on FM 1314 and attempted to turn left at a light, at which time the vehicle was struck by the F-150.

The driver of the pickup truck, 24-year-old Jose Oyervides, was taken to a nearby hospital in stable condition. The Malibu had several occupants:

  • Passenger Claudia Riley, 37, was also taken to the hospital in stable condition.
  • Passenger Jacquelyn Pena, 24, was seated in the back seat and was ejected through the windshield during the crash. Her body was found roughly 50 feet from the Malibu, killed by the impact.
  • Driver Corina Rose Tijerina, 21, was tested at the scene for intoxication by DPS officers, then taken to the hospital for a more accurate blood test. Her specific ABV was not reported, but it was sufficiently high for officers to arrest her on charges of intoxication manslaughter.

It has not yet been established which party had the right-of-way at the intersection when the collision occurred.

April 8: Around 2:30 in the morning, a Ford pickup truck driven by 22-year-old Josue Reyes rear-ended a Ford Mustang at the intersection of Aldine Bender Road and Northgreen Boulevard in Houston. The Mustang had stopped at a red light and the pickup slammed into the back of it, sending it spinning and catching it on fire.

The driver of the Mustang exited the vehicle unharmed, but his passenger was trapped in the burning car. The passenger was declared dead at the scene. Neither occupant of the Mustang has been named in official releases.

Having caused the accident, the driver tried to flee the scene but ran into a fence a short distance away. Responding deputies found him unhurt and confirmed he was intoxicated with field sobriety tests, in which he blew a .15 on a breathalyzer. Arrested, he now faces multiple charges, including intoxication manslaughter.

This Isn't Over.

I'd like nothing more than to say "No new accidents have happened and I'm unable to add to this list." Drunk driving is a scourge--an epidemic. While Texas has criminal penalties for drunk drivers and dram shop laws to penalize businesses that unlawfully serve intoxicated people, the most coverage that victims of drunk driving accidents receive in the media is a small blurb, buried someone in the coverage of "more important" news. These victims, taken senselessly by unequivocally selfish, reckless behavior deserve more than a mere passing mention. These aren't isolated incidents, but the casualties of a social sickness that infects Harris County and the rest of Texas.

Stay tuned for more entries in this ongoing chronicle.