Jacqui Saburido — a woman who became the haunting, memorable face of several anti-drunk driving campaigns after she suffered life-changing injuries in a 1999 DUI crash in Texas — died Saturday in Guatemala, her family said. She was 40.
Saburido, who reportedly had cancer, moved to Guatemala City several years ago to receive better medical treatment, her cousin Jose Saburido told the Austin American-Statesman.
“TABC [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] is saddened to learn of the passing of Jacqui Saburido, who used her life-changing injuries to help tell others about the dangers of drunk driving,” the state agency tweeted Monday following news of Saburido’s death.
Saburido became an advocate against drunken driving years after she suffered severe burns all over her body and numerous health issues following the 1999 crash near Austin. Saburido, who was 20 at the time, and three friends were together in a vehicle when Reggie Stephey’s SUV plowed into the car. The vehicle caught fire with Saburido trapped in the front passenger seat. Her body was covered in flames for almost a minute before paramedics were able to extinguish the blaze and pull Saburido out.
Stephey was arrested and charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter stemming from the deaths of two of Saburido’s friends. Stephey was found guilty in 2001 and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Saburido underwent 120 surgeries after the crash and was left severely disfigured — but she used her horrific injuries and harrowing story to warn others about the dangers of drunken driving. One billion people worldwide are estimated to have heard her story, according to Faces of Drunk Driving.
She became the face of the Texas Department of Transportation's anti-drunken driving campaign and was featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
“Even if it means sitting here in front of a camera with no ears, no nose, no eyebrows, no hair, I’ll do this a thousand times if it will help someone make a wise decision," Saburido said during one of her press availabilities.
Saburido said in 2009 she still struggled to move forward with her life a decade after the night that changed her world forever.
“Emotionally, I haven’t been able to go forward,” she said, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “I’d like to be happy with myself, to accept myself how I am and be more independent.”