D.A.: Mother's Behavior 'Outrageous' in Alleged Drunken Car Crash
NEW YORK – A mother accused of drunkenly causing a high-speed wreck managed to pull her own 11-year-old daughter from the mangled, overturned car as another girl lay dying on the roadside, prosecutors said Friday.
The mother, Carmen Huertas, had brushed off warnings that she was too drunk to drive, piling seven children in her station wagon to drive them to a slumber party at her home, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.
He said she played a morbid guessing game as she sped up a highway at nearly 70 mph, asking her young passengers to raise their hands if they thought they would crash.
Morgenthau called Huertas' behavior "outrageous" as he announced that she was indicted on charges including manslaughter, assault and driving under the influence of alcohol. She remains hospitalized with a shoulder injury; her arraignment isn't expected until mid-November.
Meanwhile, prosecutors said they continue to explore whether others — such as the adults who noticed her condition — might face legal consequences.
Huertas' lawyer didn't immediately return a call Friday. Her family has said she is suicidally distraught over the Oct. 11 crash.
After gathering a half-dozen of her daughter's friends for a weekend sleepover at her Bronx home, she took them to a family birthday party in Manhattan, prosecutors said. She downed enough cognac and other drinks there that her former boyfriend told another man in her life, the father of her toddler son, she wasn't fit to drive home, according to prosecutors.
After confronting her about his concerns and being rebuffed, the father got his 14-month-old boy out of the car — but left the other children, prosecutors said. No telephone number could be found for the toddler's father or Huertas' former companion.
Huertas drove off after midnight, teasing and terrifying the children, according to prosecutors and a survivor's family. The relatives have said she ignored pleas from the girls — including her 11-year-old daughter, Brittany Gonzalez — to slow down.
"If you think this is bad, wait until we get on the highway," the parents of one of the girls, Kayla Fernandez, told reporters in the days after the wreck.
When Huertas lost control of the car on the Henry Hudson Parkway, it swerved violently and flew off the road, rolling upside-down as it landed on the road's tree-lined shoulder, authorities said. Three children were hurled to the ground from the station wagon's back compartment; one, Leandra Rosado, died within minutes.
Huertas crawled free and rescued her daughter, prosecutors said. They said the other children in the car managed to get out on their own.
One of the girls, Yiselle Rosario, remains hospitalized in serious, but stable condition.
Prosecutors said a breath test taken at the scene showed Huertas had a blood-alcohol level above 0.13 percent; the legal limit is 0.08 percent.
Huertas, 31, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The crash came about three months after another mother, Diane Schuler, drove her minivan the wrong way on the suburban Taconic Parkway and hit an SUV, killing herself, her daughter, three young nieces and three men in the SUV.
Authorities say toxicology tests found she had been drinking heavily and smoking marijuana, which her husband disputes. Westchester County medical examiners have stood by their findings.