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Lawrence Egerton
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12-year-old dies in crash; driver charged with felonies, DWI

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A single-car accident caused the death of 12-year-old Roland Benjamin Sierra on Saturday, February 19, 2011, in Asheboro, North Carolina. The driver of the car, Reyna Patricia Valencia, age 35, was charged with multiple offenses the following Monday, including driving while impaired and involuntary manslaughter.

The third passenger in the car, Roland’s 14-year-old brother, Jose Sierra, was treated at Randolph Hospital and released. Valencia was airlifted to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Roland died at the scene of the crash.

The wreck took place on southbound U.S. 220 bypass near Sunset Avenue at about 12:30 p.m. Police said Valencia was speeding and driving erratically when her 2003 Dodge Stratus ran off the right side of the road, overturned and flipped up an embankment. Jose was in the front seat.

Valencia is described as a family friend visiting from Phoenix, Arizona. Sergio Sierra, the boys’ father, said in an interview that he and his wife, Maria, had no idea that two of their children had gotten in a car with Valencia.

“We never would have let that happen – never – especially because we knew she was drinking,” Sergio said.

Asheboro police reconstructed the wreck the next Monday at the scene. Valencia was charged shortly after the reconstruction.

These are the charges against Valencia, four of which are felonies:

  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Felony death by motor vehicle
  • 2 counts of felonious restraint
  • DWI
  • Failure to secure a passenger under 16
  • Open container
  • Reckless driving to endanger

Captain Jim Smith with the Asheboro Police Department said that Valencia is charged with “felonious restraint” because she didn’t have the mother’s permission to have the children with her.

Roland was in the sixth grade at Southwest Randolph Middle School. One of his teachers described him as athletic, a good learner and well-liked.

Despite tougher laws, the ubiquitous media messages warning against the danger of drunken driving, and the best efforts of law enforcement, the death toll from alcohol-related accidents keeps mounting.

Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes. In 2009, 10,839 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (32 percent) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

In our state in 2009, the North Carolina Alcohol Facts website reports there were 363 alcohol-related fatal crashes. Of all fatal crashes, 29.4 percent involved alcohol. And the trend is not consistently down. The worst year listed for this decade was as recent as 2007, with 447 crashes. The lowest number of crashes was back in 2001, with 334.

Heart-breaking stories like the one that happened in Asheboro are retold thousands of times. We can only hope that heightened awareness and stronger laws can reduce the occurrence of these senseless deaths and injuries.

After an accident it is wise to consult an attorney. You can find more information about our firm, Egerton & Associates, at our website, http://www.egertonlaw.com/. If you have questions about legal issues in this article or in your own personal injury suffered in a wreck, call me directly for help – Lawrence Egerton, 336-273-0508, or 800-800-4LAW, or e-mail me at le@egertonlaw.com.

You will always talk to an attorney the first time you call.