HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) — A 29-year-old San Clemente woman was sentenced Thursday to 51 years to life in prison for a DUI crash in Huntington Beach that killed three Las Vegas students visiting on spring break.
On Oct. 1, Bani Marcela Duarte was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder and a single count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, for her role in the March 29, 2018 crash.
The other driver, 17-year-old Brooke Hawley, and passengers 18-year-old Dylan Mack and 17-year-old Albert Rossi were killed in the crash.
Another teenager, Alexis Vargas, was sustained second-degree burns to one arm and was taken to a hospital.
The crash was reported at 1:08 a.m. near Magnolia Street and shut down a portion of PCH, according to the Huntington Beach Police Department.
According to Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman, Duarte “consumed an unfathomable amount of alcohol,” at multiple Orange County bars the night of the accident.
Witnesses were on the phone with police when Duarte’s white Hyundai Sonata slammed into a red Toyota Camry stopped at a red light. The car burst into flames from the impact of the crash.
“We lost such a bright and beautiful girl, and in the process, we all lost ourselves,” Hawley’s mother, Rhonda, said during Thursday’s sentencing hearing.
Hawley was the designated driver on the night of the crash, according to her family. The honors student’s parents said she was being scouted by soccer coaches for college.
“I never got to say goodbye to my daughter,” said her father, Aaron Hawley. “Her body was horrifically burned.”
Rossi’s father, also named Albert, compared his son’s death to his combat experience in Vietnam saying, “Vietnam was a living hell, but it was a walk in the park compared to this.” He said he suffered a heart attack after his son’s death.
According to Feldman, Duarte’s blood-alcohol level was 0.28% — over three times the legal limit.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)