Two people who were killed in a head-on collision on the Ortega Highway on January 1, 2009 were identified as Yesica Lopez, 22, of Perris and Abel Ortega, 19. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, 21-year-old Quintin Garza, a U.S. Marine from Camp Pendleton, has been arrested and faces two vehicular manslaughter charges and one count of felony DUI in connection with this fatal drunk driving auto accident.
Garza is suspected of speeding westbound on the 74 Highway at Betty Road. California Highway Patrol officials say he lost control of his sedan, veered to the eastbound side of the highway and struck the left front of a 2000 Ford driven by Lopez. Both Lopez and her passenger, Ortega, died in the crash. Officials are waiting for the results of a blood test to file official charges.
This is a tragedy at so many levels. My heart goes out to the family of both Yesica Lopez and Abel Ortega, who died in this crash. It is also tragic that a U.S. Marine, who serves the country and protects its people, would make that choice to drink and drive. Heartbreaking! Please keep the victims’ families in your prayers. I offer my deepest condolences to them.
I hope the drunk driver in this case, Quintin Garza, is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is against the law to drive drunk and causing a major injury or fatality accident while operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs will result in manslaughter or murder 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…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.”
There is no question that Garza should be held criminally and civilly responsible for the deaths of Yesica Lopez and Abel Ortega. The families of the two victims would be well-advised to contact an experienced Riverside County personal injury lawyer, who has a successful track record of financially pursuing wrongdoers and holding them accountable for their actions. This may also be a case where the victims’ families would be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit because of the negligence involved here.