A fateful decision
Jacqui Saburido from Venezuela had a lifelong dream of spending some time in the U.S. to improve her English. So in 1999, when her dream finally came true and she left to study in Texas, she was giddy with excitement. She was only 20 years old at the time and had no idea that her version of the American Dream would actually end up turning into a nightmare…
It all began on September 19, 1999. Jacqui was with friends at a birthday party, but it wasn’t the only party taking place in that area that evening. Not far away, 18-year-old Reggie was also at a party and drinking heavily. It didn’t matter to him that he was under the legal drinking age — he wanted to have some fun and believed the only way to do that was with lots of beer. At one point in the evening, he got in his car and drove off in search of yet another party. Reggie continued drinking all evening and by the time his path crossed with Jacqui’s, he was in no condition to be behind the wheel of a car.
You can watch Jacqui telling her tragic story in this video:
Very late in the evening Jacqui and her two friends were in the car on their way home. All three of them were completely sober. Reggie, on the other hand, was fully inebriated. As the two cars passed each other, Reggie lost control of his vehicle, swerved over to the other side of the road and crashed head on into the car that Jacqui and her friends were in.
Jacqui’s friends died instantly, but Jacqui was trapped under the dashboard and still alive when the car’s engine caught fire. Unable to move, she watched helplessly as the flames drew closer. Reggie was still conscious and able to call for help, but by the time the emergency team arrived, the flames had already reached Jacqui. At first rescuers weren’t able to get Jacqui out of the car. For 45 long seconds they struggled to free her from the burning vehicle as she screamed in intense pain. Then, suddenly, her screaming stopped.
After what seemed like an eternity, the firefighters were able to extinguish the flames and pull Jacqui from the car. She was burned beyond recognition and with her life on the line, she was flown to a nearby hospital. The emergency operation lasted hours, but in the end the doctors were able to save Jacqui’s life. Her injuries were horrific — almost her entire body had been severely burned, her eyes were nearly melted shut leaving her almost blind and all of her fingers had to be amputated.
Jacqui underwent months of operations and every day was filled with excruciating pain. Her face and body were covered with scars — she was hardly recognizable. Her life would never be the same.
While doctors were struggling to save Jacqui’s life, Reggie was also brought to the hospital, but his injuries were limited to a few cuts and bruises. A blood test quickly revealed that he had been driving while intoxicated. He was arrested and charged with impaired driving causing death for killing Jacqui’s two friends. For Jacqui and her father this offered little consolation.
Reggie was sentenced to a long prison term — the future that once looked so bright for the young athlete had been shattered. But his real punishment was having to spend the rest of his life knowing that he was responsible for the death of two people and destroying the life of a third. And all because of one bad decision to get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol.
He would give anything to have another chance and reverse that decision, but now it’s too late.
Jacqui tried her best to remain optimistic about the future. She continued with her language courses and now, when the pain isn’t too great, she tries to live an active life. Her top priority is to make sure she doesn’t lose touch with herself. She has learned to live with the physical scars caused by the crash, but the emotional ones continue to haunt her.
Since the accident, Jacqui has had more than 50 operations and made great progress. Nevertheless, she cannot escape the realities of that fateful night and the accident that took the lives of two of her friends and destroyed any hope she had of having a normal life. And all because a drunken teenager got behind the wheel.
The message is clear: people who drink and drive are not only endangering themselves, they’re also putting the lives of everyone around them at risk. Reggie will never be able to forgive himself for the biggest mistake of his life. One can only hope that others will learn from his poor judgment.