Teen Killed; Jose Gonzalez, Teen Injured in Crash on FM 315 in Anderson County, TX
Anderson County, TX -- May 15, 2022, a teenager was killed and two other people were injured in a single-vehicle accident on Farm to Market Road 315 in Anderson County.
Authorities say the incident happened around 6:50 p.m. on FM 315 north of Palestine. Preliminary investigation suggests 38-year-old Jose Gonzalez was driving a Honda Accord south at alleged high speeds when he reportedly tried to take a curve at too high a speed. The car drove off the road to the right and hit a mailbox; Gonzalez then over-corrected left and the car side-skidded through the road before hitting a large tree on the other side.
A 14-year-old boy in the car was pronounced dead at the scene. Gonzalez and a 13-year-old girl were hospitalized with serious injuries.
Investigators reported finding broken bottles of alcohol in and around the wrecked car. They noted a plan to subpoena Gonzalez' treatment records as part of a DWI investigation.
The investigation is ongoing. No further information is available at this time.
Commentary on Jose Gonzalez Accident on FM 315 in Anderson County
UPDATE (June 7, 2022): Later reports indicate police think alcohol may have played a role here. The evidence they based that on seems pretty circumstantial, but hospital treatment records may paint a clearer picture one way or the other.
If those records show alcohol was a factor, the driver may face further charges in addition to the already-serious ones listed in reports. Some may feel whatever his fate ends up being in the justice system is the entirety of the consequences here, but there may actually be another party to hold responsible for the terrible damage done.
Under Texas dram shop law any business that sells or serves drinks to an obviously intoxicated customer may be liable for the damage that customer causes or suffers while under the influence. Ensuring that a negligent bar is held accountable for liquoring up its customers and sending them on their way is an important step but too often gets overlooked.
To be clear, alcohol is only a suspicion right now and I'm not saying otherwise. The subpoenaed records will help determine whether it's just a theory or if it really was a factor. Even if they confirm alcohol was involved, that still doesn't mean a business violated dram shop law. It's just an important element to investigate further, so if police won't look into it then maybe independent professionals should.
ORIGINAL: After crashes like this, folks are often quick to jump to conclusions since most similar wrecks are due to driver error. That may be the case here too; police even mentioned that speed played a part in the car leaving the roadway. That and other factors like driver distraction or in some cases impairment are quite commonly behind similar wrecks, and I have a feeling they'll probably be considered during the investigation if only to rule them out.
Just as investigators can't ignore possibilities that might reflect poorly on the driver, though, they also can't overlook potential issues that would mean the wreck was out of his hands. A sudden mechanical failure in the car, for example, would be pretty unusual, and yet those happen every day all over the world. A crash caused by speeding and one caused by car failure might even look the same from an outside perspective, but they'd likely have very different implications so finding out which one really happened would be vital.
All I'm really saying here is that it may be tempting just to immediately blame the driver after a single-vehicle wreck, but that's unfair without considering all the possibilities. Are police taking steps to find real answers here or would the victims be better served by independent investigations?