The year 2020 is a year many of us are glad is in the past, but for the families of three young people who died in a New Year’s Eve crash, they would give anything to go back in time. And one of those local families is hoping their kind of loss is the last in our community.
The family of Andrew Ortiz – mother Sasha McKeen, stepfather Steven McKeen, and father Michael Ortiz – recently spoke with Jeff Platt at KBAK-29 Eyewitness News about the crash, their son, and the dangers of driving under the influence and unbuckled. They were joined also by Matt Clark, accident and injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.
Adam Teasdale, 21, was charged with three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of DUI causing bodily injury for the crash at Brimhall Road and Jewetta Avenue in northwest Bakersfield that killed Timothy Michael Wilson, Devin Lee Atha and Andrew Nicholas Ortiz, all 20. A fourth passenger suffered minor injuries.
Police said they believe Teasdale was driving about 60 mph when he swerved and lost control. The car went onto the raised concrete median and slammed into a tree, according to reports. The three people in the back were thrown through the window.
Police found “whip-it” canisters of nitrous oxide — which provide a brief high by inhaling the gas — and a bottle of consumed Fireball Whiskey at the crash scene, according to the media reports. A nitrous oxide canister was also found in one of Teasdale’s pockets.
“I just killed my friends,” he said, according to a witness who lives near where the crash. “Why did I swerve.”
Teasdale refused to take any field sobriety tests at the scene, according to media reports, and would only consent to a blood draw if he was arrested. One officer stated that Teasdale “displayed sings of being under the influence of alcohol.” He also said the devil was inside him.
Teasdale is being held on $1 million bail and is due in court March 26. He has pleaded not guilty.
“You may be lucky 99 times out of 100, but that last time your luck may run out,” Michael Ortiz, father of Andrew Ortiz, said in a statement. “I’m heartbroken by this tragedy. I hope someone will learn from it, and make a good decision to not drive impaired.”
Following the fatal crash, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County also shared with media other dangers and consequences of impaired driving, including hefty fines, court costs, attorney’s fees and suspension of a license. It’s much cheaper, and safer, to call an Uber or Lyft for a ride home.
“No one has to get behind the wheel if they have been drinking or impaired by drugs, it is that simple,” said Michael Yraceburn, board member for the MADD Kern County Advisory Board.
Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office – nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States.
“We suffer a lot here in Kern County, Bakersfield area from the tragic loss of impaired driving,” Yraceburn said. “Protect yourself and protect those that you love.”
Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Since the law firm’s involvement with the first Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County has raised nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions, including receiving a “Community Champion” award and “Pursuit of Justice” award, among others.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.
- Major crash leaves 3 dead, MADD warns against drunk driving (23ABC News – Jan. 1, 2021)
- Driver in fatal New Year’s Eve crash enters not guilty plea (23ABC News – Jan. 4, 2021)
- Four friends, three deaths: Aftermath of a New Year’s Eve tragedy (KGET-17, NBC – Jan. 7, 2021)
- ‘I just killed my friends’: Nitrous oxide canisters, whiskey bottle found at scene of New Year’s Eve crash that killed 3 (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 1, 2021)
- Family of young man who died in New Year’s Eve DUI crash in Bakersfield speak about loss, dangers (KBAK-29, CBS – Feb. 3, 2021)