Crime

Drunken driver who seriously injured motorist sentenced to seven years

A Cathedral City man was sentenced today to seven years in prison for driving drunk and causing a crash that seriously injured a motorcyclist, who has since undergone a series of surgeries and requires round-the-clock care.

Elver Hernandez, 28, pleaded guilty last week to drunken driving causing injury charges stemming from the May 27, 2016, crash that caused major injuries to Isaac Romo, who remains in a wheelchair and, according to his mother, has since suffered three strokes.

Hernandez, who admitted sentence-enhancing allegations of causing great bodily injury, crashed his pickup truck at the intersection of Whispering Palms Trail and Ramon Road. According to Cathedral City police Lt. Paul Herrera, Hernandez was turning left onto Ramon Road at 6:39 p.m. when he crashed into the motorcyclist. Hernandez's truck then overturned and hit another car in the southern portion of the intersection, Herrera said.   

Hernandez's blood- alcohol content was .14, well over the legal limit of .08, at the time of the crash, according to the prosecution.   

Romo's mother, Diana, said at the sentencing hearing that her son, who's in his 20s, was in a coma following the crash, and that doctors recommended disconnecting him from life support and donating his organs.   

Though his condition has improved in the two years since, Romo's mother said he can barely speak, has memory and vision loss, and is incapable of bathing or using the bathroom on his own. He has undergone 17 surgeries total, primarily to repair numerous fractures in his skull, she said.

Riverside Superior Court Judge Charles E. Stafford Jr. told Romo's family that he regretted being able to only impose a seven-year sentence, one year short of the maximum possible sentence that could have been attained with a conviction at trial.

"With these types of injuries and the suffering the victim went through, and is still going through, and will probably go through for the rest of his life, the sentence on this great bodily injury allegation should be a life sentence. It really should,'' Stafford said.

A GoFundMe site has remained active since the crash in order to assist the family with ongoing medical costs. Those interested in donating can click here.

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