Cruz, 26 struggles to share information about the traffic accident that ruined her life. Most of her memories of crash have disappeared, and the few she does have are truly horrific. She remembers that prior to the wreck she’d been a happy, expectant mother and that following it, she only had a short while to hold her child’s lifeless body.
The terrible tragedy occurred a year ago, when Cruz and her sister were in a truck that was broadsided by another driver who failed to see their vehicle before choosing to run a red light. When the police responded to the accident they found Cruz inside the truck, unconscious. She was transported directly to the hospital where the emergency medical staff performed an immediate Cesarean and tried to save the baby, who Cruz named Angelys Brielle. The child was alive at birth but only survived for about 3 hours before passing away. Cruz didn’t regain consciousness until 3 days later which is when she learned about her child’s fate.
Today, the young mother who chose to have her daughter buried in pink casket, has little to remember her child by. Her most prized possessions are one of the outfits she picked out for the child, the hospital armbands the baby wore, a swaddling blanket and stuffed teddy bear that plays her Angelys Brielle’s heartbeat.
“I just remember when they gave her to me,” Cruz said. “Nobody (in our family) actually got to see her alive. “I had to plan her funeral from the hospital.”
The grieving mother expected the guilty driver to face steep legal recriminations and was shocked when the only thing they received was a traffic citation and not a single criminal charge.
The traffic citation the other driver received said he was responsible for failing to properly secure his load of landscaping supplies and that he ran a red light. According to the driver, he didn’t realize the light was red. The crash reconstruction indicates that he was driving40 mph at the time of the accident.
Cruz believes he should have been charged with vehicular homicide. When questioned, the team who investigated the accident reported that they didn’t add vehicular homicide, a criminal act, to the citation because they felt that the wreck was a genuine accident.
Mark Cox, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office explained that the choice was left up to the investigators. “Law enforcement determines if it’s a criminal or civil infraction. Sometimes it’s just an accident, even if, sadly, someone dies.”
Cruz knows that nothing will bring her daughter back, but she feels that she can help prevent further deaths by helping drivers understand just how dangerous running red lights can be. Now, she is using Change.org to spread a petition that earned 2,500 signatures and is sharing her story with all levels of legislators. “I’m doing everything I think is right to keep her memory alive,” Cruz said. “I’ll keep fighting for her; I think any mother would.”
Tampa personal injury lawyer Marc Yonker said, “This mother’s determination and strength is inspiring to the whole community.”