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Alleged DWI Mom Taunted Kids Before Fatal Crash

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WCBS-TV: She promised another parent that the children would be in good hands. She even joked about it. But what happened next was no joking matter.

Now a young girl is dead, a mother is under arrest, and families are devastated after a tragic accident on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

A woman stands next to her critically-injured daughter's hospital bed Monday, hoping and praying she will make a full recovery. And all her anger can be directed at one woman - 31-year-old Carmen Huertas - who police say drove drunk with seven children in her car before flipping it over.

The girls who survived the horrible crash had already been to one slumber party the night before. They thought they were going to a second, going up the highway from Manhattan towards the Bronx at West 96th Street when the car flipped. The surviving girls have told their parents that Huertas appeared to be drunk, with the seven young girls as passengers.

One of those parents is, Melody Sanchez. Her daughter, Kayla Fernandez, is still in critical condition. Sanchez allowed CBS 2 exclusively into her daughter's hospital room Monday to show just how critical her daughter is, and to tell the young girls' stories.

"She told me all she remembers is she was driving, swerving side to side because she was playing with them. And she had told the kids, 'If you think I'm gonna crash, raise your hands.' And all the kids did not raise their hands. And then her daughter kept telling her, 'Mom, slow down.' And she didn't listen to her daughter, and she said, 'If you think this is bad, wait until we get to the highway,'" Sanchez exclusively told CBS 2.

Huertas' own daughter, Brittany, was also in the car. Police are being told Huertas apparently drank at a birthday party for her niece in Chelsea. The question other parents have is, however, if that's true, why would adults at the party let her get behind the wheel? It's a question so sensitive that apparently it's why our camera was chased away from that apartment.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly had lots to say, though.

"I guess some people aren't getting the message. It's incredible how anyone would take those young lives in their hands when they've had a few drinks," he told CBS 2.

Killed in the crash was 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who was ejected from the vehicle. Of the other five girls, 14-year-old Yismel Rosario crawled from the car to comfort her sister, Gisele, and Kayla, who were both thrown from the car.

"I'm just stressed, tired. I'm just frustrated; I wish there could be more done for my child and I want this lady to do life. She was playing with all of their lives and I'm just sad that she would do something like this to our children, including her child," Sanchez said.

Huertas is still hospitalized, recovering from her own injuries. She's already been charged at the hospital with vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated.


When one parent makes a promise to another that they will protect their child, you expect them to do just that, but in the case of Huertas, it was an empty promise. Now, a single father sits alone, his 11-year-old daughter gone.

Pieces of the shattered car still litter the crash site along the West Side Highway. They were parts of athefive-passenger Mercury Sable, allegedly driven by Huertas, and packed with eight people, including Rosado, who is never coming home.

"I slept in her room last night, she wasn't there and I felt it," said Lenny Rosado, Leandra's father. "I know it's going to be a tough road ahead."

Rosado's room is filled with pictures and books, Beanie Babies, shoes, clothing, and all the physical possessions of the young life she lost.

The last time her father saw her alive was at the curb outside his apartment house on West 20th Street early Saturday evening. It was the drop-off point before Huertas would later take the girls up to the Bronx for a holiday weekend sleepover.

"She looked OK. I didn't see no signs of intoxication. We shook hands and she told me 'Lenny, your daughter's wonderful, you know she's a doll and she's in good hands with me don't worry,' and I said 'OK, no problem,'" said Rosado. "She told me that she was in good hands."

But Huertas' demeanor likely changed in the hours of partying that followed. Those who knew the little girl want to know where the other adults were when she grabbed the car keys and left with the kids.

"You don't invite children to a party that has alcohol. Anything can happen and this is right now, it's a shame that this has to be an example," said J.M. Estrella, a family friend.

It's a crushing cost to bear for a family that did keep close tabs, which did check to see who was driving. The girl's grandmother, Olga Rosado, stood in the child's bedroom and stared at the empty room on Monday, remembering that Leandra was hoping to re-paint it soon.

"We'll paint it the way she wanted even though she isn't here," she told CBS 2.

Leandra's wake is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Her father says he'll open it up to the whole city. He wants us everyone to know what happened, and everyone to remember.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
chris October 13, 2009, 7:57 AM

This is so sad. My heart goes out to the family of that little girl who died. When are people going to understand that drinking and driving is soooo dangerous. So many lives will be forever changed because of this woman actions.

Anonymous October 13, 2009, 10:19 AM

Still trying to figure out why there was alcohol at a kids party. The host of that party needs to bear some responsibility since she/he should of been aware who was leaving unable to drive safely.

chris October 13, 2009, 10:56 AM

I have been to a lot of birthday parties for very young kids (1-10) and have been amazed at how many times the parents have served beer. Esp. during the summer months and the parties are outside. I have never accepted a beer at any of these parties, why would I when I’m going there as a guest with my other kids? Children parties should be for children and not a reason for adults to get together and drink.

ame i. October 13, 2009, 1:52 PM

A few years back I took my pre-schooler to a party and was offered wine.
I like to keep “adult” and “child” parties seperate.

Mother Nature October 29, 2009, 10:17 AM

No one is even asking why there were 8 (eight) people in a Mercury Sable? Those cars barely fit 5! The parents of the kids riding with her didn’t see it as a dangerous situation from the very begining obviously. If these children had been properly seat belted in and the vehicle capacity had not been grossly disregarded, we would not be mourning the loss of any child.

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