UPDATE: Porsha Branch, 3 Children Killed by DWI Driver on FM 2920 in Harris County, TX
UPDATE (March 17, 2021): Authorities have identified the mother killed in this crash as Porsha Branch. Driver Daniel Canada now faces four charges of intoxication manslaughter after the recent passing of Branch's third child in a hospital.
UPDATE (March 16, 2021): It is our sad duty to report that the 2-year-old child placed on life support after this crash has died at the hospital.
The suspect in this crash, identified by police as Daniel Canada (aka Anthony Andrew Michaels) was found to have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15%, almost twice the legal limit, at the time of the accident. He currently faces three counts of intoxication manslaughter and one count of intoxication assault that may now be upgraded to a fourth manslaughter charge.
Harris County, TX -- March 14, 2021, a woman and two of her children were killed and another child was critically injured in a collision on Farm to Market Road 2920 in Harris County.
Authorities say the incident happened around 8:30 p.m. on FM 2920 near Gosling Road. Preliminary investigation suggests that the woman was with her children in a passenger vehicle, stopped at a traffic light on 2920, when a suspected impaired driver crashed into them from behind. The initial collision then turned into a pileup involving seven vehicles. The impact caused the woman's vehicle to catch fire.
The woman and two of her children, ages 7 months and 5 years, were killed in the crash. A 2-year-old child was airlifted from the scene to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where they were put on life support. The driver who rear-ended them was also transported to a hospital with unspecified injuries.
Investigators believe the rear-ending driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash. Charges are being evaluated.
The investigation is ongoing. No further information is currently available.
Commentary on Porsha Branch Accident on FM 2920 in Harris County
UPDATE (March 16, 2021): It seems further developments have come up with respect to this crash.
Blood tests have apparently confirmed that Mr. Canada was intoxicated at the time of the accident. By the time someone reaches .15% BAC, the effects are clearly felt and outward signs of intoxication should become more obvious. However, with careful restraint the intoxicated party may still be able to escape casual scrutiny.
This is evidenced by Mr. Canada's apparent escape from an encounter with a county deputy right before the crash. He was pulled over for speeding and briefly detained, but reportedly showed "no outward signs of impairment" and was released from custody.
Some may wonder if that means my previous remarks about obvious intoxication and a bar's potential liability for the crash would be invalid. Keep in mind that the suspect would likely have made the best effort possible not to appear intoxicated to the deputy, who himself may have been distracted by writing a ticket or impatient to be elsewhere. Luck may have favored Mr. Canada in that traffic stop, but a trained and patient observer might have caught a certain glassiness in his eyes or the beginnings of impaired coordination.
That's not to blame the deputy for missing any signs. My point is more that a bar or restaurant's staff might have better picked up on them after seeing them every day and (theoretically) receiving training in how to recognize them. If they did and continued to serve Mr. Canada when those signs started to show, then a dram shop violation may still have occurred.
I am certain that the grieving family has many other things on their minds besides whether a bar broke the law, and I don't mean to redirect the conversation away from the tragedy they endured. As I mentioned before, I talk about these matters because I have seen far too many bad businesses get away with the negligence that creates these wrecks. For all that drunk drivers deserve every ounce of punishment they receive, the establishments that weaponize them should also face serious consequences. My goal in discussing victims' rights is to ensure that everyone responsible is found and confronted. This behavior must be addressed and ideally stamped out, but to do so requires ensuring those who do it receive much-deserved punishment.
ORIGINAL: A law enforcement officer was quoted by news sources as saying "It is a situation of...a possible suspected impaired driver who basically snuffs a family out of existence." That is a quote both heartbreaking and rage-inducing, and I'm certain I'm not the only person who wants to make sure those responsible pay as heavy a price as the law will allow.
Here is where my perspective may differ from others', though: While they are likely ready to throw the entire book just at the allegedly-impaired driver, Texas law actually provides recourse to hold his "accomplice" of sorts accountable as well. By that, I am referring to any licensed alcohol provider that over-served him before the crash that night.
It bears repeating before I say more that intoxication is only suspected, not yet known, in this matter. Circumstantially it seems to fit what happened on FM 2920, and police seem to have significant reason to believe it's a factor, but the driver is entitled to the presumption of innocence the same as anyone else. I write the following hypothetically, not to accuse him of something without evidence.
IF intoxication by alcohol was a factor in this crash, the law may consider more than just the drunk driver responsible. According to dram shop law, a licensed alcohol provider like a bar, restaurant, or convenience store may be considered liable if they sold or served alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person who then caused or suffered injuries. Put another way, if someone can't stay on his barstool or can't even pronounce his order without slurring his words, then whoever's pouring his drinks is legally obligated to stop. The problem is that many businesses see that as more of a "polite suggestion" than the codified law that it is. They willingly over-serve whomever can pay, and when the tab is closed don't give them a second thought as they wobble out the door to get behind the wheel.
If it seems crass to talk about these issues so soon after tragedy befell this family, that is not my intent. What I see here is a situation that may involve an area of the law many people don't know about, but could have helped them significantly during very difficult times. I am frustrated at how little emphasis law enforcement places on dram shop violations because they can't handcuff a business. At most they will alert the TABC and then close their reports. In the meantime suffering victims and their families struggle to get back on their feet, unaware of their rights.
Dram shop law serves the dual purposes of punishing bad businesses for negligent over-service and providing injured victims and their loved ones a way to confront those same bars in court to secure badly-needed help with their recovery. Not everyone agrees that businesses should share the blame for drunk driving crashes, but if the law responds with serious consequences to those drivers, why shouldn't it also seek to punish the people that made them so dangerous?