Celia Torres, 73, and her grandson, David Gonzalez, 16, were killed in a San Diego car accident, which police report, involved a drunk driver. According to a news report in The San Diego Union-Tribune, the fatal DUI collision occurred on state Route 125 outside of Fletcher Hills, the night of December 9, 2011. Officials say Celia Torres was traveling at approximately five miles per hour in heavy traffic when a truck slammed into the back of her Nissan Pathfinder. The collision set off a chain-reaction crash involving four vehicles and resulted in two vehicles becoming engulfed in flames.
Celia Torres and David Gonzalez were trapped inside the Nissan Pathfinder and “burned to death within a minute.” The driver of the truck, Justin Foulds, 39, of Lemon Grove, was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter. Foulds told officials that he had just attended an office Christmas party.
My heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Celia Torres and David Gonzalez, especially Andrea Torres, who lost both her mother and son in this horrific crash. She will be in my thoughts and prayers.
San Diego DUI Accident Statistics
According to California Highway Patrol’s 2009 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), San Diego DUI collisions resulted in 27 fatalities and 748 injuries. Countywide, 103 people were killed and 1,754 were injured in alcohol-related car accidents.
California Drunk Driving Laws
Based on this news report, the driver of the pickup truck, Foulds, who rear-ended the victims’ vehicle was under the influence of alcohol. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a), it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher. A driver whose act of driving under the influence results in the death of another will likely face vehicular manslaughter charges.
California Penal Code Section 191.5 (a) states: “Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.”
If Foulds is determined to have been at fault here, in addition to facing criminal charges, he could also be held civilly liable for the victims’ wrongful death. If it is determined that Foulds got intoxicated at his employer’s Christmas party, his employer can also be held liable. In such cases, victims’ families would be well advised to contact an experienced San Diego personal injury lawyer, who will stay abreast of the official investigation and ensure that their legal rights and best interests are protected.