August 18, 2012-Chula Vista, CA-According to CBS News, a driver who was allegedly under the influence caused a car accident that resulted in the death of two five-year-old girls, one of them her child.
Arlene Hernandez, 22, pled not guilty to manslaughter after she drove a vehicle into a 30-foot-deep reservoir, causing the drowning of her daughter, Lesette Silva, and Guiliana Figueroa, her daughter’s friend. Hernandez and Eric Figueroa, father of the second child, escaped without injury.
The accident occurred on Otay Lake Road when Hernandez lost control of her Kia Sedona. The car flipped and slid into the reservoir near the US Olympic Training Center. The two girls were restrained in the back and were unable to escape the car. They were transported to a nearby hospital and were pronounced dead on arrival.
My heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of both of these children.
Accident Statistics Involving Drowning
Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations FARS or Fatal Analysis Reporting System Database does not segregate deaths caused by drowning in motor vehicles, a recent study by Rory Austin of the NHTSA notes that there were at least 384 verifiable drowning deaths in motor vehicles in the three years between 2004 and 2007.
It is very likely that drowning was a contributing factor in many other accidents; for example, if the victim drove into a lake and was rescued prior to drowning, but later died from complications of the accident such as pneumonia, it is unlikely that this information would appear in the data published by the agency.
California had the second-highest rate of car accident drowning, just behind Florida and just ahead of Texas.
Could This Accident Have Been Prevented?
Although the investigation into the accident continues, it appears that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. It is impossible to say that the accident would not have happened if she had been sober, or that she would have been able to render aid to the children if she was not drinking. However, statistics tend to show that people who are under the influence of alcohol have much slower reaction times and are unable to plan clearly when faced with an emergency, so it is likely that this senseless tragedy was as much the result of alcohol as the circumstances of the accident.
Whether or not the driver is convicted of manslaughter, she is liable for the death of the little girls in the car and injuries to her passenger. A professional car accident attorney should examine the facts of this case and determine the best way to recover damages.