Bartender charged in death of teen killed in drunk driving accident

Each year more 4,300 teens die from excessive drinking and the majority of those deaths are in car crashes.

A family in Wharton County knows the pain. They are living it and want to save another family from it.

James Russell O'Cañas, 17, died last month when he was the passenger in a car with an intoxicated driver. The driver, Lee Treviño, 19, crashed into a tree in East Bernard. Treviño survived and is charged with negligent criminal homicide.

Friends and family of Russell describe the senior at El Campo High School as a role model and hardworking. Russell's father says he wanted to become an engineer and was already taking college-level classes.

Sadly, one night changed all of that.

"We just want other students, other young teenagers, to know you can be a great kid, but one mistake, one choice, one decision could mess up your whole life," said Jennifer Peña, Russell's aunt.

According to investigators, the video showed Russell and Treviño were not asked for their identification cards at Brewingz in Rosenberg the night of the crash. Both, they add, were drinking.

The bartender, Edith Melendez, was charged this week with serving alcohol to a minor and serving an intoxicated person. 

"A lot of it could have been avoided. I mean just from checking IDs," said James O'cañas, Russell's father.

Trevino’s cousin, Bicente Joshua Castillo, was also charged with giving alcohol to a minor. He turned himself into police on Wednesday.

O’Caָñas says he and his son were very close and Russell knew to call him. However, he says he knows in his heart that night Russell wanted to help his friend.

"[Russell] would be there for you no matter what," O'cañas told FOX 26.

His family hopes to save other families from their pain through Russell’s story.

"Call an adult," Peña added. "Yeah, you might get in trouble for that second but it’s better than putting your life or somebody else’s life in danger."

Mackenzie Leach, Russell's cousin, is also a senior at El Campo High School. She says this tragedy has made her even more aware of being safe in any situation.

"Even if you’re just going out with friends and think 'oh, I’m just going to have fun tonight.' You need to have a plan," she said firmly.

Leach says it's also made her cherish her friends more than ever.

"I always tell my friends whenever they go out, 'hey be safe, I love you,'" she said fighting back tears.

Brewingz declined to comment on the case.

Treviño, Melendez, and Castillo are all out on bond.