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Teen Records Fatal Drunk Driving Crash As It Happens | News

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Teen Records Fatal Drunk Driving Crash As It Happens

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- 9 Wants You To Know the heartbreaking reality of what a drunk driving crash really looks like. A teenager inside a car in which a legally drunk woman was behind the wheel videotaped the tragedy unfold. A police report confirms she was more than twice the legal limit for intoxication.  

The video is gut-wrenching and allows a viewer to witness exactly what happened in the minutes leading up to a fatal crash on December 29 of 2011 along University Boulevard in Silver Spring.

Loud female voices can be heard throughout the video, including one young woman shouting "We're driving drunk!" 

The tape reveals a night of partying. A drunk driver behind the wheel. And three exuberant young women hurtled from sheer joy to tragedy in just six seconds. The videotape continues to roll from inside the mangled car for 21 minutes, capturing the sounds of the desperate rescue attempt. (Click video)

"I'm still in denial. I'm still in denial," said 18 year-old Desaleen James, the only survivor. "I don't know. Maybe I'm here to save somebody else."


Moments before the crash, one of the boisterous voices on the tape yells, "If we die tonight, we know where we're going."

Desaleen was buckled into the front passenger seat, videotaping her night out with two friends.  The police investigation revealed their car was traveling at about 94 miles per hour, in a 40 mile per hour zone.

"I wouldn't want anyone else, not even my worst enemy, to walk in my shoes right now," said Desaleen.

The driver lost control and the speeding car went airborne. It barreled over a chain link fence and plowed into a brick embankment. The impact--so violent, it flung parts of the car into tree branches and utility wires.

"It's not real yet. It's not real. I'm past crying," she said.

The investigation showed the driver, 22 year-old Jenice Richards, had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit. 19 year-old Tamara Johnson, in the back seat, hadn't been drinking and Desaleen recalls, urged the driver to slow down.

"I can't cry anymore. I can't. I'm all cried out," said Desaleen.

The three friends had spent the night at a Montgomery County club. Even though she's just 18, Desaleen said it was no problem getting alcohol.

"It was very easy. I just had to pay the guy at the door ten dollars not to put an X on my hand. That was it," she said.

Ironically, the deejay's last words of the night proved ominous.

"Everybody drive home safe," he said over the loudspeaker.

The crash left Desaleen with a broken hip. Her physical wounds have healed.

"Now I'm just wishing like I had more bodily pain, to forget about my emotional pain," said Desaleen. "Like, I want to hurt. I want my body to hurt cause then I have something to focus on."

Desaleen wants others to see the horrific video that has changed her life forever. An alcohol-fueled nightmare that ripped away two friends. She and Tamara were so close, they called each other sisters.

"You never think that something like this is going to happen to you. It's one in a million, like, and then boom. It hits you. And there you are, that one in a million," she said.

With this new perspective, she's frustrated with teenagers who insist they have the right to drink, and even, the right to get behind the wheel afterwards.

"If you want to put yourself in that position, maybe we could trade with God that I could take your life and get my sister's life back? If you want... because that's what you're doing. You're putting yourself out there to die," said Desaleen.

Now, the only place Desaleen can see her best friend is at the cemetery.

"I don't get a hug, I don't get a kiss," she said. "I just see a patch of dirt and I talk to it."

Desaleen says she's not the same person she was 11 weeks ago. And she wants to dedicate the rest of her life to keeping the memory of her best friend alive, by making sure no one else makes the same mistake that they did.

Written by Andrea McCarren



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