News outlets are reporting another senseless death caused by drunk driving.
On Thursday, October 4, 2012, Elias Hernandez was headed home in his pickup truck, along with his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild. The family was allegedly rear-ended by Tomas Ortiz, Jr., who was driving a Dodge Charger. New accounts said investigators estimated his speed at 75 miles per hour, or more. The crash knocked the pickup off of the roadway, flipping it into a creek. Mr. Hernandez was able to help his son, daughter-in-law, and their child. But despite frantic efforts to save her, his wife, Laura Hernandez, age 57, drowned.
Ortiz was arrested at the scene after allegedly failing field sobriety tests. He faces charges of intoxication manslaughter. Section 49.08 of the Texas Penal Code establishes that a person commits the offense of intoxication manslaughter if he “operates] a motor vehicle in a public place … and is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.” Intoxication manslaughter is a second degree felony, which has a punishment range of two to twenty years in the penitentiary, plus a fine of up to $10,000.
The result is that one thoughtless night of drinking has claimed the life of a woman, and scarred the lives of many others. A husband has lost his wife. A son has lost his mother. And a grandchild will never have the cuddles and love of this grandmother. Even Oritz’ life has been changed forever. Sitting in jail, waiting for an indictment, sentencing, and possibly prison, he will bitterly and repeatedly regret his irresponsibility, if he was drunk as alleged.
The misery caused by the numerous deaths and injuries stemming from driving while intoxicated is completely preventable. Authorities need to firmly prosecute violators. And state law, which shields to a large extent those who profit by selling alcohol to drivers, must be changed. Drunk drivers, and the bars that make money by getting them that way, need to be held fully responsible.