HCSO: Driver charged in wrong-way crash that killed 5

By Phil Archer - Reporter

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - Charges have been filed against a wrong-way driver who caused a crash that killed five people, including a toddler, a small boy, in northeast Harris County early Monday morning.

An adolescent girl was the only survivor. She was airlifted to Memorial Hermann Hospital where she is still in very critical condition.

Harris County Sheriff accident investigator, Sgt. Susan Cotter said,

"That scene is just one you don't forget. I've been on hundreds of fatalities in my career, and especially when a child is deceased, you just don't forget those," Harris County Sheriff Sargent Susan Cotter said.

Cotter says Efraim Carmona, 34, has been charged with five counts of intoxication manslaughter and one count of intoxication assault.

Carmona was allegedly traveling the wrong way on the Beltway in his pickup truck when he slammed into another vehicle on Beltway 8 at Wilson Road. The victims were traveling westbound. None were wearing seat belts, according to Cotter.

"There was no car seat in the vehicle and the child deceased on the scene was probably about 3-4 years old," she said.

Carmona's blood alcohol level was measured at .23, almost three times the legal limit.

"He refused to cooperate in questioning with us. There were many multiple containers (of beer) in the vehicle, but he was uncooperative in the investigation." Cotter said.

Carmona was taken by ambulance to Ben Taub Hospital. He remains hospitalized.

Investigators have identified one of the victims as 41-year-old Valentin Garcia. HCSO investigators have also learned that Garcia and his family were in the process of moving to Oklahoma, where an 18 year-old son lives, when the accident occurred.

The 11-year-old girl extracted alive from the wreckage and taken by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital remains in critical condition.

In the wake of the tragedy, the Harris County Sheriff's Office held a press conference Monday afternoon.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said the early-morning crash, in addition to another deadly DWI crash June 22 that killed four people in southwest Houston, has left veterans of the department in shock.

"Longtime employees of the Harris County Sheriff's Office cannot remember a day or a week like the one we've had. Nine innocent people killed at the hands of drunk drivers in two crashes. Nine people," Garcia said. "Last week we had four family members, minding their own business, playing by the rules. Last night, we've had five, with children involved."

His message was clear: There must be an end to drinking and driving.

"Don't drink and drive," Garcia said. "Don't think you can drive after drinking. If you don't value your life, please value the lives of those who share the roads with you," Garcia said.

Garcia asked the public to light up their social media pages to get the word out that drinking and driving will not be tolerated.

"I am here to solicit the support of every citizen in Harris County asking you to join me in keeping our families safe, our roadways safe, but most importantly to be a good friend, to be a good neighbor," he said.

"Even if you think that person has had a small amount. Please keep those individuals off the road. "Make this a family conversation. Have a candid, frank and tough conversation with them before the Harris County sheriff's deputies have to."

Garcia is also asking Houstonians to report bars or restaurants that over-serve alcohol.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is also investigating the crash to determine if Carmona was drinking at a local bar prior to the deadly crash.

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