SPI says it’s not to blame in fatal crash: Island pointing finger at others

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — A judge will allow the City of South Padre Island to point the finger at third parties it says are responsible for a fatal drunken driving crash last Spring Break if a lawsuit filed by one of the victims goes to trial.

Francisco J. Zabarte, who is representing the City of South Padre Island in a lawsuit filed against it by Secilia Leija, said 107th state District Judge Benjamin Euresti granted the request yesterday morning.

Leija sued South Padre Island last August, claiming the city was negligent because there were no barricades or other protective instruments present to separate bike lanes from the main road.

Leija was seriously injured March 17, 2017, when a vehicle plowed into seven pedestrians, hitting six of them and killing one, 19-year-old Maria Selena Patino of Los Fresnos.

Authorities accuse Daisy Joy Decker, a 20-year-old Sugar Land woman, of being intoxicated and driving her car into a group of spring breakers.

In December, Decker pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment that includes a charge of intoxicated manslaughter.

Zabarte argues in the motion that Leija is suing the wrong party.

“The most direct and proximate cause of Plaintiff’s injuries was caused by the independent action and conduct of the hit-and-run driver, Daisy Joy Decker, in custody and control of the vehicle that ran over the Plaintiff, as pleaded in Plaintiff’s own petition,” the motion states.

“Furthermore, to the extent that one is discovered, the establishment that served Daisy Joy Decker alcohol or allowed her to buy alcohol as a minor are responsible for causing Plaintiff’s injuries.”

The motion also argues that Decker’s roommates, Crystal Heetai Pooja, Christopher Plasencia, Isaich McKenzie McPeter and Mohamed Hanza, also are responsible because they “facilitated Daisy Joy Decker to consume the alcohol.”

Leija is seeking $1 million in damages from the City of South Padre Island. On Jan. 3, the City of South Padre Island filed a motion for summary judgment against Leija.

“That will be more of a legal issue basically presenting a case to try and get the city out,” Zabarte said.

In the motion, the City of South Padre Island said Leija has not identified a negligent use of property and also points out that Decker is not a city employee and was not driving a city-owned vehicle. The motion also argues that SPI isn’t required to separate bike lanes and streets with barricades.

“By law we’re not required to make streets in certain ways, so I have a motion to get us out of that case,” Zabarte said.

Euresti scheduled a hearing for that motion Feb. 15.