A Navy veteran and an elementary school teacher were identified as two people who died in a five-car crash north of downtown Dallas early Sunday that police say involved three drunken drivers.
The crash happened just before 2:30 a.m. Sunday along North Central Expressway near Fitzhugh Avenue.
The victims were identified as 31-year-old Sergio Moriel and his date, 27-year-old Melissa Aguilar.
Two other people suspected of driving while intoxicated remained hospitalized Monday, while a third driver was released from jail after posting a $200 bond.
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According to updated information from Dallas police on Tuesday, 24-year-old Grayson Tsai Meu Chong's vehicle became disabled in a lane along the highway and was then hit by an oncoming driver.
That crash led to a series of subsequent collisions in which Aguilar and Moriel were killed.
Police said two of the drivers involved in the crashes were driving under the influence including 28-year-old Jose Salazar-Reza and Chong. Marsalis Brown, 31, meanwhile, is facing two counts of intoxication manslaughter.
As of Monday night, Brown and Reza remained hospitalized. Chong, who has no prior record, was released from jail after posting a $200 bond Sunday night.
Families 'Numb' Over Unexpected, Devastating Losses
Sergio Moriel's sister told NBC 5 he had been out on a date with Aguilar when they were killed in the crash.
“It’s ridiculous,” Antoinette Moriel said. “We're all just numb. He was just here with us for Thanksgiving.”
The close-knit family from Sweetwater could not have imagined this would be their last holiday with Sergio.
“We have Christmas presents for him already under the tree,” Antoinette Moriel said. “It's just going to be so hard.”
She said her brother loved fishing, his parents, two sisters, and being an uncle.
“He just started his business doing Airbnb. He bought two houses, he was in the Navy, he was a really good one,” Moriel said. “It makes no sense how his time ended like that. He had so much to live for.”
“You’re risking taking someone’s everything,” Antoinette Moriel said through tears. “You can’t replace someone. Once they’re going, they’re gone. All we have is just pictures of him.”
Melissa Aguilar's aunt told NBC 5 she was passionate about teaching and that the entire family was devastated after learning of her sudden death.
Dallas Police Step-Up Holiday DWI Patrols
Dallas police have activated their annual program “Home for the Holidays" -- a stepped-up enforcement effort through the new year in areas with a high number of DWIs and drunken driving incidents.
Dallas police Deputy Chief Albert Martinez said impaired drivers are traditionally not able to react quickly and safely when there is a hazard on the roadway, as was in this case given the disabled car.
“To me, it's one of those failures of us as a society where people aren't taking seriously how dangerous it is to be driving while intoxicated,” said Martinez. “This is a prime example of where there's a hazard and your inability to make changes or decisions quick enough to avoid it is what causes this.”
Martinez said patrols were out early Sunday morning and responded to the crash site.
He said that the department wanted to process suspects more quickly to get the program's dedicated eight officers back on the streets as soon as possible.
“Through my discussions with Chief (Eddie) Garcia, my goal is to increase our DWI presence as well as make sure they have the proper equipment,” he said.
The Dallas Police Department offered tips for driving during the holiday season:
If you plan to go out and drink, please consider the below tips --
- Always have a designated driver
- Call a taxi or download a rideshare app on your telephone
- If visiting a friend or relative, spend the night
- Never enter a vehicle with someone who has been drinking
- Consider drinking non-alcoholic beverages
- Take away the keys from those who have been drinking
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result in significant financial costs, legal expenses, potential medical costs, increased insurance premiums, property damage, jail time, and loss of life.