Our opinion on arrest and video of 18 year-old driver who live-streamed fatal car accident

    Obdulia Sanchez booking photo, courtesy Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office

As long as you haven’t been in a coma the last few days, by now you are probably aware of a video that went viral on Facebook (thankfully now deleted) but still available on other platforms as well as circulated by local news agencies (even though they blur some things out). In case you haven’t, here’s a short rundown on events.

Last Friday, July 21st at 6:42 pm, CHP and emergency personnel responded to 165 and Henry Miller Rd for a single vehicle rollover accident. One female (14, later identified as Jacqueline Sanchez of Stockton) was pronounced deceased on scene, another female juvenile was transported to the hospital with leg injuries, and the 18 year-old driver, Obdulia Sanchez, was arrested for DUI and vehicular manslaughter and booked into jail after getting medically cleared at the hospital, and is currently being held on $300,000 bond.

What makes this accident stand out so much compared to similar accidents is what the driver did. As has circulated around social media, and was sent to ALLmercednews on Saturday morning, the driver was streaming a video of herself driving, singing with the radio, and flashing gang signs live on Instagram. The video of this part lasted just under two minutes prior to the moment where the car overturned. Immediately after the vehicle stopped rolling, the driver picked up her phone and again continued to record herself and her sister who laid on the ground dead next to her. She was careful to make sure she looked good on camera first and really appeared to have no emotion, or at least no sad emotion, about the fact she just killed her sister. She put on a show for the camera, and this was truly disheartening. Though her being under the influence of alcohol and shock from the accident may have affected the emotions (or lack thereof) she portrayed, anyone seeing the video would probably agree with us that this moment not only shouldn’t have been recorded, but shouldn’t have been livestreamed, and shouldn’t have been circulated by social media or news outlets.

It has long been our policy that we do not post pictures of accidents that involve fatalities or severe injuries that could become fatalities, as we know first hand how devastating it can be for family members to have that image be the last image of their loved one in their head. For this reason, we of course will not post any part of the video that has been widely circulated.

We will say this: parents, please pay attention to what your kids are doing. Kids, or anyone of any age who drives, get your phone out of your hand and keep your eyes on the road! Had the driver not been drinking, and/or had the driver not been focusing more on her phone and video she was making than the road, this tragedy most likely wouldn’t have happened. Had the young girl that passed away (who was going to have her quincenera the following day) had her seatbelt on, perhaps she would have lived.

Our intention here is NOT to blame the victim or her parents, but to use this tragedy as a reminder to everyone out there that laws are made for a reason, and that is for us to be able to wake up the next morning. Don’t drink and drive, wear your seatbelts, and put your phones away when driving. If you are in a vehicle where one of those things isn’t happening, speak up. It would be better to be known as the annoying person who is always nagging friends to put on seatbelts or put phones away than to be known as the friend who watched their best friend die because they were too afraid to say something.

If you look through social media at the accounts of young drivers, you may be shocked at how many of them have videos posted that they have made while driving, many of them singing along to the radio, just like the driver in this horrible tragedy did. It takes only a split second to change your life or someone else’s life forever. Is acting cool in front of your friends worth the many years you may face in prison because you killed someone? Is it worth attending the funeral of your friend or family member because you wanted to be more popular on social media?

Please everyone, all we want is for tragedies to not happen. Some accidents can’t be prevented, but some are preventable, and even those that can’t be prevented can have completely different outcomes when we do things like put on our seatbelts or make sure children are fastened properly in their car seats. Drivers keeping their eyes on the road is the best prevention, however, so put the phones away!

If you are the parent or friend of a teenage driver, please have a talk with them about how quickly fun times can turn into tragedy. Your talk might just end up saving a life some day.