“That won’t happen to me” is often the last foolish phrase we say to ourselves before we do some boneheaded thing that goes against our better judgment. In the best case, we learn a lesson at the cost of a bit of embarrassment as life proves us wrong.
But in the worst case, our bad choices can cause pain and suffering to ourselves and, even worse, to others. When one person decided to make an incredibly stupid decision, it would lead to disastrous consequences for complete strangers…
Night on the Town
On a Tuesday night in Houston, Texas, Veronica was out drinking with a friend. The two were hanging out at Crescent City Connection Sports & Oyster Bar, a popular spot known for its fresh seafood and Cajun cuisine. The two friends were enjoying margaritas and taking advantage of their Tuesday $2 shot drink special, ordering tequila after tequila.
While that may or may not sound like a good time to you, one important detail will likely change how you feel about the scene: Veronica was only 20 years old and her friend was even younger, barely 17…
The 2 underaged drinkers were able to buy alcohol at the bar because their bartender never checked their IDs. Without that check, the only limit to the drinks Veronica and her friend could have was how much money they had.
Hitting It Hard
As the hours of the night went by, the pair grew increasingly more intoxicated as their bartender served them drink after drink. It’s not clear what time they started drinking but they kept it up until last call…
It was at that point that Veronica made a stupid call. The inebriated woman decided to get behind the wheel of her SUV. Just as foolish, her 17-year-old friend got in the passenger seat alongside her.
Early to Rise
At the same time, a 36-year-old woman named Shayla was getting out of bed. She was the mother of a 3-month-old baby named Braylan and was still on maternity leave from the University of Texas Medical Branch. Unlike most new mothers up in the middle of the night, it wasn’t her crying baby that woke her…
Gesture of Love
Instead, Shayla was up in the small hours of the morning because her husband Bryan worked nights and she liked to have breakfast ready and waiting for him when he got home. She strapped little Braylan into his car seat and got on the road to pick up something hot for her husband to eat.
That’s how both Veronica Rivas and Shayla Joseph happened to be on the Gulf Freeway at a little after 3:30 am. It was then that their lives, and their vehicles collided. While the new mother was driving in a responsible fashion, the drunken 20-year-old was weaving in and out of lanes at speeds upwards of 90mph…
When Veronica smashed her Lincoln MKX SUV into the back of Shayla’s compact Scion, it hit with such extreme force that the smaller car was compressed to roughly half its size. Christine Moyer, a woman who was parked in a nearby lot, ran over to help when she saw the horrific accident.
When she got to Shayla’s car, Christine saw the unconscious woman trapped inside the vehicles twisted frame. She managed to pry open the driver’s side door and checked on Shayla. “I felt for a pulse, I couldn’t find one. We found a very weak one and then it just faded,” she said…
Veronica was completely out of it, apparently unaware that she’d even been in an accident, the damage to her own car, or the other car she’d just annihilated. “She was screaming that she had just come from the bar,” and that “they were out of gas,” Christine said.
When first responders arrived on the scene, there was tragically nothing they could do. Both Shayla and baby Braylan were pronounced dead on the scene. A mother herself, Christine was shaken by what she’d witnessed. “Just to think that if anything happens to my kids, I just couldn’t imagine.”…
By contrast, Veronica and her friend both had a few broken bones but were otherwise unharmed. After they were treated for their injuries at a nearby hospital, Veronica was taken into police custody and charged with 2 counts of intoxication manslaughter.
Instead of coming home to be greeted by his loving wife and child and a hot breakfast, Bryan was met by nothing but anguish as police informed him of the accident. Naturally, he was completely devastated. When he left the house for work, he was a happily married new dad. When he got home, he was a widower…
“I can’t even believe it right now,” Bryan said. “This is unreal. I’m just wishing that this wasn’t true.” He had just been getting to know his 3-month-old as the baby’s personality began to emerge.
“It was just now that he was smiling and stuff,” Bryan said. “He was getting to the point where I could get him to smile on cue.” It would be a long time before smiling was a regular part of Bryan’s life…
While Veronica was now facing up to 40 years in prison for her actions, she wasn’t the only one responsible for the deaths of the mother and son. In an effort to crack down on the people involved in drink related accidents, the Harris County DA’s office decided to pursue the people who’d provided them with alcohol.
You Made It Possible
Devin Jackson, the 24-year-old son of the bar’s owner was charged with knowingly purchasing and providing alcohol to a minor, as was the 23-year-old John C. Medina. Amy Allen, a 40-year-old bartender is facing criminal negligence charges as well for allowing the underaged pair to drink without checking their IDs…
We Have to Get Better
District Attorney Kim Ogg said the charges were necessary if Harris County was to reduce it’s shockingly high drunk driving rates. “We are ground zero for alcohol related car crashes and deaths in the United States,” Kim said. Under Texas law, it is illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is intoxicated enough to possibly pose a risk to themselves or others.
Joy and Happiness
But none of that will bring back Bryan’s wife and child. “It’s just unbelievable that one bad choice can take the lives of so many and affect so many,” said one family friend. Though he was crushed by his wife’s death, Bryan tried to focus on her life. “She always wanted to spread joy and happiness everywhere she went,” he said. “So she did a great job at that.”