BURLESON, TX -- The teenage driver responsible for the horrific crash that killed four people and injured multiple others was charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault in a Tarrant County courtroom last week. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years imprisonment. For now, he has been released to his parents, but must wear an ankle monitor so that officials can continue to keep track of his whereabouts. Prosecutors have apparently chosen to pursue a determinate sentence, which means that if he is convicted, he will start his sentence in a juvenile offenders’ facility, before transferring to an adult prison when he turns 19.
As a father, it pains me to think that this young man has thrown away his future as the result of a drunken accident. But as a Fort Worth personal injury lawyer, I know that the criminal charges are absolutely necessary. While I fight for full justice for accident victims and their families, I also realize that it is important those responsible for dangerous driving also pay the price for their criminal behavior. Driving while intoxicated is illegal. No matter who you are, if you are found guilty – especially if your actions have resulted in the death of another person – you deserve the harshest punishment for your crimes.
The wreck occurred at around 11:45 pm on June 15. An SUV driven by Breanna Mitchell, 24, of Lillian, was stalled on the side of Burleson-Retta Road. Brian Jennings, 41, pulled over his truck over to assist Ms. Mitchell, leaving two teenage passengers inside. A mother and a daughter from a nearby residence, Hollie Boyles, 42, and Shelby Boyles, 21, also came over to offer assistance. Moments later, all four of them would be killed.
A red pickup truck driven by the accused came speeding down the narrow country road. It hit Mitchell’s disabled vehicle at about 70 mph, plowed into the four pedestrians, struck Jennings’ pickup, crashed into a tree, and collided with an oncoming Volkswagen Beetle. The red pickup was carrying a total of eight teenagers – including the driver – and none of them were wearing a seatbelt. At least ten people are known to have suffered injuries of varying degrees as a result of the crash, in addition to the four fatalities. At least one of the injured persons remains in a coma.
The negligent teenage driver was tested for alcohol following the collision, and it was determined that he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.24 - three times the legal limit in addition to being younger than 21. It later emerged that he and at least some of the occupants of his pickup had been drinking throughout the evening, and that some of them had stolen beer from a Burleson Wal-Mart just hours before the wreck occurred.
There is no good that can come from this tragedy. Four lives have been lost, and many more have been irreparably ruined. Although alcohol-related car accidents occur throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area on a far-too-regular basis, this one is particularly sad just because of the scale of the tragedy, and the young age of the driver at-fault and many of the others involved. All I can hope is that Texans young and old remember this crash if they are ever tempted to get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking. Even if you think you are a more experienced driver and more capable of holding your alcohol, it is still illegal and still incredibly dangerous. From one moment to the next, you could become a killer, or even lose your own life.
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