Deadly DUI Crashes in San Diego Up in 2016: Statistics Show

Deadly DUI crashes in the city of San Diego are up slightly from 2015, according to new statistics from San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officials.

According to local law enforcement agencies, there were a total of eleven deadly DUI crashes on city streets and highways between January 1 and Dec. 28, 2016.

Sixteen people died in those crashes, one more than in 2015 in as many crashes, officials said.

One of the most devastating suspected DUI crashes this year happened at Chicano Park in October when a U.S. Navy sailor's truck flew off a Coronado Bridge ramp and onto a crowd below, killing four people.

Married couple Cruz Elias and AnnaMarie Contreras, Andre Christopher Banks and his girlfriend Francine Denise Jimenez were killed in the crash.

Richard Sepolio, 24, has since pleaded not guilty to multiple charges related to the fatal crash, including four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury or death, and four different great bodily injury allegations.

The entire San Diego County - which includes statistics from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO), among other agencies - will release their 2016 statistics after Jan. 1, 2017.

NBC 7 has reported on several deadly crashes on county roads, including a DUI crash on State Route 67 that claimed the life of a young man.

At the sentencing for the man convicted in the crash, the victim's mother said she hopes others will learn from the tragedy and avoid drinking and driving.

"This is a horrific crime and it's affecting us as individuals, our family has been devastated," Tami Riley said.

It's a sadness that Monica Zech understands deeply: more than two decades ago, her father was stuck and killed by a drunk driver.

She says it is a pain that never goes away.

"My family was robbed of somebody so precious to the family, the patriarch, and suddenly he's ripped away and my mom now has been living with me over those 24 years because of devastated her to this day," Zech said.

Zech now educates others about the dangers of drinking and driving. She says while her father died nearly 25 years ago, the loss never goes away.

"He was just starting to enjoy life and retirement and the grand kids, who were very young at the time," she said.

One thing adding to her pain is knowing that the crash could have been preventable.

"As long as we still have that statistic where one person is affected or killed, but it's too many and we need to stop it," Zech said.

California Highway Patrol officials remind drivers to always plan ahead before they go out drinking: there are too many alternatives now to make excuses.

San Diego law enforcement agencies said they continue to operate DUI checkpoints across the county on a consistent basis in an effort to get intoxicated drivers off the road and prevent DUI-related crashes and deaths.

The penalties for a DUI can range from $8,000 to $15,000, including attorney fees.

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