A San Clemente woman, Bani Marcela Duarte, drunkenly crashed into a vehicle that was stopped at a Huntington Beach intersection, killing three teenagers and injuring another. According to Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman, Duarte had consumes an “unfathomable amount of alcohol” by the time she left a bar in Newport Beach. Duarte, while making an overly wide turn onto PCH, hit a curb, drawing attention from three young men in a nearby vehicle.
Duarte first checked for possible damage on her car, then got back inside the vehicle and drove off. The three men in the nearby vehicle were concerned that she was too drunk to drive, called 911 and followed her. They were able to describe Duarte’s appearance as beyond intoxicated and that she was slurring, burping, and staggering. As Duarte approached a red light on PCH and Magnolia Street, she accelerated and crashed into the back of a stopped Toyota Corolla at nearly 80 mph, causing the Corolla to catch fire.
Three teens died in the fiery collision, while the fourth was seriously injured. Duarte, however, suffered from only a red mark that resulted from her seatbelt. Body cam footage taken directly after the collision captured Duarte, still sitting in her car, asking an officer, “Did somebody just die? What happened? What is going on?” And to make matters worse for herself, Duarte had previously been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2016 and had lost her license for a year. It didn’t take long for the jury to convict Duarte of second-degree murder.
The jury only deliberated for about an hour before reaching a decision. Duarte is scheduled to appear in court on October 30th for sentencing. She faces up to 51 years to life in prison. To read more about DUI’s in general, click here.