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APD Chief Acevedo calls for change after latest fatal crash

Police Chief Art Acevedo calls for change after Austin's 65th deadly accident this year.
A vehicle involved in an early morning wrong-way crash along Interstate 35 in Austin, Texas.

AUSTIN -- A 26-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman were killed, and another woman was critically injured after a head-on crash on Interstate 35 Wednesday morning.

"This should not have happened, it didn't need to happen," said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.

According to an arrest affidavit, 23-year-old Michelle Orduna, who was out celebrating a birthday, and her passenger, 23-year-old Megan Mendez, got onto the southbound lanes of I-35 at around 2:30 a.m. going the wrong way in a Toyota Camry.

The Camry hit a man head-on near Airport Boulevard where the highway splits into the upper and lower decks. The man, identified Friday by police as 26-year-old Clayton Matthew Keller, died at the scene. Both women were taken to the hospital with critical injuries, and Mendez died the next day.

Investigators said Orduna entered the highway using the Manor Road exit ramp, according to the affidavit. Due to her condition, field sobriety tests could not be performed, but her blood alcohol content was .17 percent. Orduna is charged with intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony, with bond set at $100,000.

The crash is Austin's 65th deadly accident so far this year. A total of 69 people have been killed since Jan. 1. There were only 55 fatal crashes in 2014.

Acevedo added that fatal crashes are up across the country and 2015 is on track to be the bloodiest year on American highways since 2007. Experts attribute that partly to lower gas prices and a strong economy; factors that are resulting in more people traveling. But more people on the road or not, Acevedo said there's no excuse for drinking and driving.

"Enough is enough," said Acevedo, calling for change. He said there needs to be consequences for everyone who plays a role in DWI crashes, starting with the people who cause them.

"Life's about choices," he said, "everybody knows that drinking and driving absolutely do not mix."

Acevedo is asking parents to talk with their children to not only discourage them from drinking and driving, but to also explain the dangers of getting in a car with a drunk driver. He said people should instead use one of the many ride-sharing companies in the city, take a cab or ride the bus.

He's also calling on juries to crack down on convicted drunk drivers.

"One of the challenges that we have in this community is we're a very forgiving community," said Acevedo as he referenced specific cases where suspected drunk drivers were sentenced to probation. "Someone runs over a pedestrian, probably under the influence at the time, and claims that it's a deer that they thought they hit and they get probation. We have to hold people accountable, there has to be consequences."

"It's really easy to forgive somebody when it's not your flesh and blood that has been laid out on a highway," Acevedo added.

In addition, Acevedo said bars and restaurants that over-serve customers should also face punishment.

"To the bars that over-serve these young people, that serve these young people in the first place, you know I'll be the first to say that I hope somehow you're held, not just liable by TABC in terms of licensing, but I hope somehow you get help liable in terms of civil liability for not having responsible business practices. For caring more about the bar tab and how much we can sell then the lives that you're going to impact when you let young people come in there and you over-serve them," said Acevedo.

He encouraged people to call the police if they see bartenders over-serving customers and if they see drunk drivers on the road.