Joshua Smith, Aaliyah Peinado, Matthew Fernandez Killed, Autumn Lynch Injured in Bell County, TX Wrong-Way Accident
Bell County, TX — July 16, 2022, Joshua Smith, Aaliyah Peinado, and Matthew Fernandez died and Autmn Lynch was injured in a wrong-way crash on I-14 in Bell County.
According to reports the incident happened shortly before 2:00 a.m. along I-14 near the T.J. Mills exit in Fort Hood. Preliminary investigation suggests Fernandez was driving a Toyota Corolla east in the westbound lane of the highway, against traffic, when he crashed head-on with a Kia Optima driven by a 20-year-old Copperas Cove woman. After the impact the Toyota caught fire.
Smith, 22, and Peinado, 20, both passengers in the Kia, suffered fatal injuries in the wreck. Fernandez was also killed in the crash. Lynch, the Kia driver, received incapacitating injuries and was taken to a Temple hospital.
The investigation continues. No further information is currently available.
Commentary on Wrong-Way Crash on I-14 in Bell County
Along with the information they gave to news sources about this crash, investigators issued an urgent plea to the public not to drink and drive. Given that statement and the nature of the Bell County accident, it seems likely that police think the wrong-way driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time.
I don't say that to sully his name or to upset anyone, just to recognize a potential factor that authorities will probably look into and seek evidence of. Some may wonder if that's really necessary since the suspected DWI driver is beyond the reach of the law, but it's more important than people realize. For one thing, if the driver was intoxicated that could mean a local business is partly responsible for what happened.
Texas and many other states broaden the responsibility for DWI wrecks beyond the drivers to sometimes include the businesses that sold or served them drinks. If a licensed alcohol vendor over-served the driver prior to the accident, that business may be partly responsible for all the victims' injuries under dram shop law. It may then be expected to make whatever amends it could to the victims' loved ones.
Dram shop law was created to ensure negligent over-service is met with appropriate consequences. Not every DWI wreck starts with a dram violation, but they're more common than many people think and they should be dealt with swiftly to ensure a bad bar stops endangering its community. So will the authorities look into the possibility of such a violation here, or would an independent investigation better ensure the people affected by the crash get the help and justice they deserve?