A Navy veteran and a young woman were identified as two people who died in a five-car crash north of downtown Dallas early Sunday that police say involved three drunk drivers.
The crash happened just before 2:30 a.m. Sunday along north Central Expressway near Fitzhugh Avenue.
The victims were identified as Sergio Moriel, 31, and Melissa Aguilar, 27.
Two people suspected of driving drunk remained in the hospital Monday, while a third driver was released from jail after posting a $200 bond.
Dallas police have stepped up enforcement, hoping to deter drunk driving crashes through the holiday season.
“We’re all just numb,” Sergio Moriel’s sister Antoinette Moriel said. “He was just here with us for Thanksgiving.”
The close-knit family from Sweetwater, Texas could not have imagined this would be their last holiday with Sergio.
“We have Christmas presents for him already under the tree,” Antoinette 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.”
Sergio Moriel had been out on a date with Aguilar, his sister said.
The couple was killed, police said, in a five-car crash with three drunk drivers.
“It’s ridiculous,” Antoinette Moriel said.
According to Dallas police, the victim’s car became disabled in a lane along the highway and was then hit by Marsalis Brown, 31. Brown was charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter.
Police said two other drivers were then involved in the crash and were also driving under the influence: Jose Salazar-Reza, 28, and Grayson Tsai Meu Chong, 24 are both charged with DWI.
Authorities could not provide a mug shot of Brown and Reza because they were still hospitalized.
Chong, who has no prior record, was released from jail after posting a $200 bond Sunday night.
“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,” Dallas police Deputy Chief Albert Martinez said. “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 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.
Dallas police have activated the program “Home for the Holidays” — a stepped-up enforcement effort through the new year in areas with a high number of DWIs and drunk driving incidents.
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.
“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.”