A Texas teen accused of causing a wrong-way collision that killed a young mother on Dec. 16 allegedly downed nearly a dozen drinks before getting behind the wheel of his truck and driving off, state authorities said.
Taylor Phillips‘ life was cut short when 19-year-old Erick Hernandez swerved across three lanes of traffic while driving drunk before slamming into her SUV last Sunday. Phillips, 23, died at the scene, while her mother and 1-year-old baby son were treated at a hospital for several injuries.
“This family should be celebrating the holiday but is instead planning a funeral,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “This tragedy should never have happened.”
According to the Houston Chronicle, Hernandez is charged with second-degree felony intoxication manslaughter in the young woman’s death. Court records showed he was released on $30,000 bond on Dec. 18.
Meanwhile, four bar employees and a manager have also been charged in connection with Phillips’ death.
Jazely Marie Barrera, Mildred Garcia, Joaquin Guadalupe Gonzalez, and Anna Evelyn Lule are facing misdemeanor charges associated with serving the young man. Bar Manager Gustavo Tejada-Garcia is also charged with misdemeanor possession of an unauthorized beverage, as the South Houston bar was only permitted to sell wine and beer — not liquor.
Last Wednesday, authorities seized surveillance video from inside the Servi-Car el 3 on Houston Boulevard showing workers serve Hernandez at least a dozen alcoholic drinks, including three tequila shots, during the six hours he spent at the bar that evening, the newspaper reported. The footage reportedly also showed the young man throwing back drinks with another guest and employees, who never once asked to see his ID.
Sean Teare, chief of the Vehicular Crimes Division at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said this likely wasn’t the first time Hernandez had visited the bar.
“This is a 19-year-old kid at a bar,” Teare told reporters. “The bar is like any other bar. They had live music. They were dancing. They were there for six hours, and they never stopped drinking during the six hours.”
A clearly intoxicated Hernandez eventually left the pub around 10:50 p.m. The fatal crash involving Phillips would happen only moments later.
“Literally one minute after he left (the bar), he took the life of Ms. Phillips,” Teare added. “Right now, there are Christmas presents under a tree for a mother who will never open them. And a child who will never know his mother because of the irresponsible actions of all six individuals charged in this tragedy.”
The district attorney’s office said its now considering action to have the business shut down for good.
Phillips’ mother, Carmen Rainer, told ABC13 that she, her daughter and her 1-year-old grandson were on their way home from visiting family in New Orleans. They were five minutes from home when Hernandez plowed into their car, killing her daughter.
Rainer said she was unconscious for a moment after the collision, but was wakened by the cries of her grandson, Mason, who was pinned underneath her daughter.
“The drunk driver came out of nowhere. We didn’t see him until he was right up on us,” she recalled. “I saw smoke and tried to get out of my seat belt and open the door. I tried to get my grandson out. He was stuck under her and I couldn’t get him out. It took three men to get Mason from under her. His leg was stuck under her. I had to move her, and that’s when I realized she was gone.”
A GoFundMe page has since been launched to help support Mason. So far, the campaign has collected over $5,000 in donations.
“The greatest thing she’s ever done was have that baby,” Rainer said of her daughter. “She loved him. She was the best mother ever. She cherished him.”
Watch more in the video below.