For David Valeriano, it was a drive to work on Thanksgiving weekend 2009 that he will never forget.
“It’s surreal – it happened right in front of me,” Valeriano told the jury as testimony began in the punishment phase of Janet Herrera’s trial.
Herrera, 25, plead guilty to intoxication manslaughter charges as her trial began Tuesday in 227th District Court.
She was driving southbound in the northbound lane of Highway 281 at about 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 28, 2009.
Valeriano said he saw her in his rearview mirror in the northbound as she passed him while he drove south in the southbound lane.
“I started honking at her and I kind of moved over to the left hand lane and started honking,” he said.
Valeriano said she was going about 70 mph.
He called 911 just as Herrera slammed head-on into a car driven by Estanislao Gonzalez, a legal immigrant from Guatamala.
“I was fixing to hang up but the 911 operator was able to hear the wreck on the phone and I remember telling her, ‘Oh my God, he hit somebody,'” Valeriano testified.
He said he dashed to help and found Herrera with leg injuries but conscious.
He went next to Gonzalez’ car.
“The damage to the vehicle was so intense there was nothing I could really do for him,” Valeriano said.
Gonzalez died at the scene.
Herrera, who suffered leg and hip injuries, was rushed to the hospital. Her blood alcohol level, according to prosecutors, was twice the legal limit.
She is facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. But she has applied for -- and is eligible for -- probation.
Testimony will continue on Wednesday in Judge Philip Kazen’s 227th District Court.