Life After a DUI Crash: Victim Still Surviving
By: Gerri Elder
Becky Barrett is a survivor. Sixteen years ago she was in a horrific car accident, when a giant Chevy van hurtled towards her Ford Ranger truck and changed her life forever.
After the van hit her on that Alaska night in 1994, her right hand was broken, and her left arm was pinned against the car door. The engine of her truck had collapsed into the truck’s cab and crushed her legs.
Above her, a neon beer sign was the only light by which she could see. The driver of that van faced charges related to DUI, but he was ultimately able to avoid charges based on a court’s ruling that his blood-alcohol content was 0.86, which at the time was below the 0.10 legal limit.
An article in the Peninsula Clarion chronicles Barrett’s struggle to pick up the pieces of her life following the near-deadly accident.
Barrett was on track to serve a stint with the U.S. Marine Corps. Once she was done, the Corps would pay for her education. But in the aftermath of the crash, as she waited for help to arrive, she knew that her life wouldn’t follow the path that she thought it might.
According to the Peninsula Clarion, with her family around her, Becky prepared to die at the hospital. She had a broken femur, a shattered elbow, a fractured thigh and exposed bone. She required nine hours of surgery and ten days in the intensive care unit. While she was there, she received a medical discharge from the Marines.
But before she could think about recovery and the future, Becky had to tesitfy to a grand jury about the accident. Her testimony would be the beginning of a long series of trials and legal battles to try and bring the person who caused the accident to trial.
The driver of the van that hit Barrett’s truck, Felipe Perez, was charged with first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. In the initial case, his blood-alcohol level was alleged to be 0.119. During court hearings, though, his alleged level was lowered to 0.86, and he left court absolved of any charges.
In 1995, Perez was re-indicted, but he had left the state. Only in 2006, when he was the victim of an assault in Georgia, did he pop back up on the police’s radar. He was arrested on the outstanding warrant, and he recently sat for a bail hearing.
Barrett, for all of the pain, growth and recovery that she has been through, remains frustrated with the justice system in her case. “He’s spent less time in jail than I did in the hospital,” she told the Clarion.
It would take her a year before she could walk on her own. A star athlete before the wreck, her sports career was over. Now, her wrist still aches and her knees are susceptible to repeated injury.
Even all this time later, as Barrett still lives with the lingering pain and suffering that came from the accident, it is the absence of judicial resolution that still bothers her and her family.
“The failure of the judicial system is what bugged me," said Don Waldrop, Barrett’s father. "I hope they do something for his benefit and that something positive can come out of it. If he could just stand up and say ‘I'm sorry I did this to you.’ ”
Still, Barrett has flourished since the accident, despite some hardship. When she lost a child at birth, her previous experience surviving the accident taught her that life could go on.
"You have to survive,” she said. “You have to get to a point where you realize you can keep going.”