Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
July 27, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
DRUNKEN DRIVER SENTENCED FOR KILLING TEEN IN CAR CRASH WHILE DRIVING WRONG WAY ON FREEWAY
*Defendant also sentenced for injuring another driver
SANTA ANA – A drunken driver was sentenced today to nine years and eight months in state prison for crashing into and killing a 19-year-old in another vehicle and injuring the driver while going the wrong direction on the freeway. Yanira Ramirez, 26, Fontana, pleaded guilty to the court on Thursday, July 23, 2009, to one felony count each of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing great bodily injury, driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more causing bodily injury, and driving a vehicle the wrong way on a divided highway causing injury or death. The defendant also admitted to the sentencing enhancements for causing great bodily injury or death to more than one victim, driving with a blood alcohol level of .20 percent or more, and causing great bodily injury.
On the night of Nov. 30, 2007, Ramirez was driven by a co-worker to Tijuana’s Long Bar & Grill in Irvine, where she consumed at least nine alcoholic beverages over the course of the evening. After consuming several alcoholic drinks, Ramirez was dropped off by her co-worker at her car, which she had left in the parking lot at her work in Irvine. At approximately 1:00 a.m., the defendant got into her 2006 Nissan Altima to drive home.
At approximately 1:15 a.m., two different drivers called 9-1-1 to report that they had almost been hit by a car driving southbound on the northbound State Route 55. Ramirez was driving and weaving between lanes going the wrong direction into oncoming freeway traffic. While driving north of Lincoln Avenue and the California State Route 91 junction, Ramirez crashed head-on into a Toyota pickup truck driven by 19-year-old driver Steven Nguyen, flipping it onto its roof. Nguyen’s passenger, 19-year-old Pauline Portes, was transported to Western Medical Center, where she died from multiple traumatic injuries caused by the crash. Nguyen was also taken to the hospital and sustained several injuries including a broken arm and toe. Ramirez was treated for minor cuts and a broken leg.
When police officers arrived at the hospital, Ramirez showed objective signs of intoxication including omitting an odor of alcohol and having red and watery eyes. Approximately two and half hours after the crash, Ramirez had a blood alcohol level of .19 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
During the sentencing today, family and friends of the victim Pauline Portes expressed their sadness, loss, and devastation over her death. They spoke of how the victim was a vibrant, intelligent, young woman with a bright future that now, could never be fulfilled.