A North Texas couple who survived a crash that killed their toddler is sharing their story in hopes of raising awareness on the dangers of impaired driving.
Brooklyn and Joshua Pierite recently moved from Louisiana to North Texas. They were driving home to Fort Worth with their daughters four-year-old Aubrey and two-year-old Mi’Lania on Tuesday night.
“We just let them open their little Christmas tablets. They were just in the backseat playing with their little tablets. We were excited to get home and play with them some more, and cook for them,” Brooklyn Pierite recalled Saturday.
According to Arlington police, their pick-up truck was hit by a suspected driver around 8:20 p.m. on the westbound lane of I-20 near the Highway 360 Interchange. Witnesses told police the driver, identified as 25-year-old Tyler Hampton, had been driving erratically. The pick-up truck hit a guardrail and rolled over it, landing on its side.
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“My four-year-old is what woke us up. She was screaming, ‘help my baby sister…help my baby sister.’ Mi’Lania was just passed out,” Joshua Pierite told NBC 5.
Aubrey’s injuries were minor, according to her family. Brooklyn suffered broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung, while Joshua broke his femur and ribs. Both remain in the hospital as of Saturday. Mi’Lania passed away from her injuries Thursday night.
“Really exhausted. Cried so much that we don’t have tears left. It’s really hard. I never felt pain until this happened. Never felt pain,” Brooklyn said. “She was just a bright light, just everywhere. When it was cloudy, she was just bright. When she would walk into a room…her little voice, her little smile, her kisses, she was just everything.”
As the couple continues to heal from their injuries, they’re also on a mission to get justice for their little girl and spread awareness on the impacts of impaired driving. Police confirmed this week, one of the charges against the suspect has been upgraded to intoxication manslaughter.
“I just want justice for my baby. I want drunk drivers to be scared to drink and drive, and I don’t want them to just get a slap on the wrist,” Joshua said. “I just want the justice system and the community to come together and to take this seriously. These drunken drivers need to be punished because they are hurting lives and we have to live with that pain.”
According to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, Driving While Intoxicated is one of the most committed crimes in Tarrant County. In 2021, there have been 5,122 DWI cases in Tarrant County through December 15.
“Nurses, doctors, everyone just knows that pain. They know that drunk drivers have taken so many lives,” Brooklyn said. “To take an innocent two-year-old’s life that sitting in the back seat just playing on her little tablet, not knowing what was about to happen, not prepared, not old enough to brace herself…it could have happened to anyone, and it does happen. So, our message is don’t be selfish. Stay at home. Stay where you’re at. Just don’t drink and drive. Everyone knows not to drink and drive.
The couple is also thanking good Samaritans who stopped to help them while waiting for first responders.
“Thank you anyone that is watching that helped us and performed CPR on my baby. Anyone that pulled us out of the vehicle. Anybody that stopped and saved our lives, thank you. Because we would have died in there, thank you,” Brooklyn said.
The family has created a GoFundMe page to help with Mi’Lania’s memorial and additional expenses.