The frantic moments after a serious car accident are often difficult to remember. The body floods with adrenaline, focuses on simply staying alive. For 18-year-old Desaleen James, the video she shot of her and her friends that evening captures the terrible impact of the vehicle as the driver, drunk behind the wheel, loses control of the vehicle and crashes into a brick embankment at 94 miles per hour. The SUV hits with such force that parts of the vehicle literally rocket into nearby tree branches and utility wires.
The video captures everything – the moments prior to the accident as the girls gleefully scream, “we’re driving drunk!” to the desperate pleas to 911 operators for help and the tragic assessment of rescue workers as they arrive on scene. James was the only survivor. Police say that the driver, 22-year-old Jenice Richards, had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit. Tamara Johnson, a sober passenger in the backseat, also died.
This is a heartbreaking loss for every surviving family member and friend. My thoughts and prayers are with them as they struggle to cope with the finality of that night.
WATCH! Accident Caught on Tape
Drinking and driving carries more than simply “real” consequences, the outcome of that decision is final. For Desaleen James, her best friends, her sisters, her confidants, her partners, her comforting shoulders are dead. They’re never coming back, never calling, never kissing her, never writing. Oh, she can visit them anytime she wants, they’ll always be in the same place – a cemetery, a hole in the ground. In 2011, 628 people died from car accidents in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey State Police.
Spending the rest of your life talking to a patch of dirt is a poor substitute for a best friend, a girlfriend, a brother. That one decision to call a cab, stay where you are and sleep it off, ask a designated driver for a ride is the choice that can literally change the path you walk in life. If you love your friends, care about the people around you, make the choice to protect them. Watch the video and pay attention to the sounds you don’t hear: Tamara Johnson and Jenice Richards. Listen to the moment when they last speak and then the grinding metal, the flopping camera. That isn’t a movie.
If you’ve lost a loved one or sustained significant injury as the result of a car accident, you may be entitled to damages. Contacting an experienced NJ personal injury attorney is the first step in preserving your rights. Failing to do so could reduce your settlement amount and make it difficult to meet your continuing financial obligations.