First grader killed in alcohol-related accident
Last updated 5/17/2007 at Noon
Bryan Mendoza’s fellow first grade students in Mrs. Seely’s class at William H. Frazier Elementary School have spent the last week and a half working on a memory board that pays tribute to the well-behaved six-year-old boy they valued as a friend and classmate. Mendoza, described as “quiet, shy and well-liked” was killed as a result of an automobile accident reportedly caused by his father, Rodrigo Mendoza, 32, while driving under the influence of alcohol.
“The defendant [Rodrigo Mendoza] was determined to be highly intoxicated; prior to the accident he was reportedly at the Escondido Swap Meet,” said Prosecutor Patricia Lavermicocca of the San Diego County District Attorney’s office. “He and the mother were arguing about his level of intoxication when he began swerving the vehicle on the freeway, while doing 75 to 80 miles per hour, to ‘prove’ to her he was sober enough to drive. He lost control of the vehicle and it rolled down an embankment.” The accident took place May 5 on Interstate 15, just north of El Norte Parkway exit in Escondido.
“The class is grieving; missing him; he had a lot of friends,” said Frazier School Principal Leonard Rodriguez. “To lose his life in this way is senseless.” Rodriguez said he and school counselors are spending time with Mendoza’s classmates, helping them through the painful process of losing a friend.
Six-year-old Mendoza was a passenger in the vehicle along with his mother, Rosa I. Carachure, brother, Rodrigo Mendoza Jr., 9, and sister, Evelyn Mendoza, 18 months. Authorities say Bryan Mendoza was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the back seat of the vehicle when it rolled over. Authorities say the nine year old was wearing a seat belt and the 18-month old was restrained in a car seat, but the car seat was not secured to the vehicle. The two other children did not sustain any notable injuries, but Rosa Carachure was treated for a broken arm and lacerations.
Lavermicocca said preliminary blood alcohol tests, taken two hours after the crash, showed Mendoza with a .20 blood alcohol level – over 2-1/2 times the legal limit of .08. She said another blood alcohol test taken at the hospital reflected a reading of .30.
“We are still waiting on the final results from the Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab,” Lavermicocca said. “They are being carefully analyzed.” The father was arraigned in Vista Superior Court on May 9, where he pled not guilty.
“We have filed six counts- one for gross vehicular manslaughter; two counts of driving under the influence; and three counts of child endangerment (one for each child plus one involving great bodily injury),” Lavermicocca said. “If Mendoza is convicted on all counts, he could face a maximum sentence of 14 years.”
At Mendoza’s arraignment, his bail was increased to $500,000. He has been scheduled for a Readiness Hearing on May 21 and a Preliminary Hearing on May 23.
A vigil was held for Bryan Mendoza on May 10 at Berry-Bell & Hall Fallbrook Mortuary and a mass was conducted on May 11 at St. Peter’s Catholic Church.