Harris County - 15,000 people have already been charged with DWI's here in Harris County this year alone and that number is expected to skyrocket over the next couple of weeks. So what’s being done to keep people from driving drunk this holiday season? A family who knows the pain of losing loved ones in a tragic crash is speaking out.
"It has to stop. We have to do better than what we’re doing now," says Damien House whose wife Porsha and their three sons 5-year-old King, 2-year-old Messiah, and 7-month-old Drake were killed in March 2021 after their car was struck by accused drunk driver Daniel Canada.
Simply looking at what’s left of the family’s car became too much for Porsha's grieving father, and he passed out at the news conference. "That’s the physical symptoms of a person that’s grieving. People don’t realize the amount of devastation this type of incident causes to the families," says MADD Victims Services Director Julio Zaghi.
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"You can see the results when a man as big as Mr. Russ collapses from grief and anxiety and sadness…Nobody ever gets over a crime. They may get through it, but they never get over it…Houston should not be ground zero ford DWI deaths in the nation. It’s a terrible terrible slogan for a city," says Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.
"It’s hard losing a wife and three sons. Around this time we normally have like a big family gathering," adds Mr. House but this year for the holidays he and his father-in-law are spending time in a law enforcement scrapyard trying to convince drivers not to get behind the wheel while under the influence.
"It’s not the same anymore. I mean people say there will be better days, but it won’t because my kids and wife aren’t here," says Mr. House.
"The defendant Daniel Canada was highly intoxicated on alcohol and drugs, and he was doing well over 100 miles an hour in that car right over there," says HCDAO Vehicular Crimes Division Chief Sean Teare as he points to the car Canada was driving.
"My office is the office that actually worked this horrific accident that killed Porsha and her three beautiful babies. In Harris County, it’s almost every night we’re making many, many DWI arrests. It’s a choice. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been impaired on drugs or alcohol," says Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman.
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In fact, even if you’re the one providing the alcohol you can be charged. Just this week several servers and a promoter have been charged in two different fatal DWI crashes. In one, 18 and 20-year-old sisters and their 19-year-old aunt died in October 2021 after investigators say they were drinking at a club in Midtown and another was a single-car crash in September 2021 that killed a bar worker who investigators say had been drinking at work. "Those are five people who are facing criminal charges for Christmas," says Teare.
"Even as a homeowner you can be liable for letting somebody leave your home intoxicated," adds D.A. Ogg.
"If you have a holiday party, and you allow a guest to leave that’s intoxicated you’re going to get in trouble as well. So it’s best to check people before they leave, have them stay over," Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen explains, or he says call a ride-share service. "It’s what $50, $40 to get anywhere in the city versus $10,000/$15,000 to defend a DWI charge or more importantly take a life".
All area law enforcement agencies will take part in a DWI initiative for the rest of the year when extra officers will be out and there will be "no refusal" every night now through the new year, meaning even if you refuse a blood or breath test the officer will get an expedited warrant to carry it out.
The Harris County DA’s Office is also giving more than $108,000 in criminal forfeiture funds to MADD for victim’s services, such as getting help for the dad who collapsed after being overcome with grief.