A 14-year-old Northwood High School cheerleader who was left brain-dead after an Irvine car accident, which officials say was caused by a drunk driver, has been identified as Ashton Sweet. The Orange County Register reports that the major injury collision occurred the morning of May 29, 2011 at the intersection of Irvine Boulevard and Culver Drive when 26-year-old Austin Farley, who was driving a red pickup truck slammed into a Mercedes Benz driven by 48-year-old Mike Ghaemi, carrying four teenagers.
Sweet, one of the passengers, sustained critical injuries and is being kept on life support so her organs can be donated. Another passenger, 15-year-old Krista Merassa, remains in critical condition. Ghaemi and two others sustained relatively minor injuries. Farley is facing DUI charges and could face additional charges depending on the outcome of the investigation.
My heartfelt sympathies go out to everybody who knew and loved Ashton Sweet. What a heartbreaking tragedy for the family, her friends, the school and the entire community! As someone who lives two blocks away from Northwood High and drives by there every day, I share my community’s shock and grief over this horrific, senseless tragedy.
There were 62 deaths and 1,492 injuries reported as a result of alcohol-related crashes in Orange County, according to California Highway Patrol’s 2008 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS). In the city of Irvine, one person died and 68 were injured as a result of DUI collisions during the same year.
Driver’s Criminal Record
Driving under the influence is a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a). The Register reports that Farley pleaded guilty 19 times over the last seven years to a wide range of offenses including driving under the influence, refusing to take a chemical test after a DUI stop, battery and assault with a deadly weapon. If the young victim passes away, it appears that Farley may be looking at vehicular manslaughter or even vehicular homicide charges, given his prior criminal record.
Holding Wrongdoers Accountable
As an Orange County personal injury lawyer who has represented victims of drunk driving crashes and their families, it is disheartening and upsetting to me that people, knowing everything they know about the dangers of drunk driving, would still make a conscious choice to get behind the wheel when they are intoxicated. This was no “accident.” It was a conscious choice made by a person who knew exactly what he was doing. He put his life in danger and compromised the lives of others on the roadway including the lives of the young people in the Mercedes. A young woman with tremendous potential is on the brink of death today because of a drunk driver.