LANCASTER – A family who lost a loved one in a DUI crash last month joined law enforcement officials and community activists Friday morning to send a clear message to the community against drunk driving.
“My daughter was a very beautiful woman… All we have left now is a box with her ashes,” said Rosa Tennison through tears. “My grandchildren will never feel the safety of their mother’s arms around them.”
“If there’s anything you can get from this, it’s don’t get in the car with someone who’s been drinking,” Rosa Tennison continued.
The group gathered at the corner of Avenue I and 15th Street East in Lancaster, the spot where 22-year-old Destiny Tennison was killed on Feb. 25 as the result of a DUI crash. Andres Rubidoux, the father of Destiny’s two young children, had been giving Destiny a late-night ride to Walmart, Rosa Tennison said.
The couple was traveling eastbound on Avenue I, approaching 15th street east, when Rubidoux traveled off the roadway and then overcorrected and lost control of the car, sheriff’s officials said.
The vehicle skidded through the intersection and crashed into a traffic signal pole. Destiny died at the scene of the collision, and Rubidoux was transported to the hospital where he was placed in intensive care.
Toxicology reports put Rubidoux’s blood alcohol level substantially above the legal limit, officials said. Rubidoux was arrested after his release from the hospital and charged with gross vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated, and other alcohol-related charges. The charges have now been upgraded to include murder, according to court records. Rubidoux is currently in jail on $1 million bail.
“It’s a terrible tragedy that a mother was taken away from her young children, and it’s a tragedy that didn’t have to happen,” said deputy Jon White of the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station’s Traffic Bureau. “I think it’s important to show our support for the family and the community and to make it known that these are the types of violations that we aggressively pursue.”
This past year alone, there were 103 DUI traffic collisions, which resulted in 55 injuries and two deaths in the city of Lancaster, White said.
Local law enforcement is taking a zero tolerance stance against drunk driving, said Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Captain Pat Nelson.
“If you are caught driving, either under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted,” said Nelson. “This is a preventable tragedy, and folks need to stop and think before they get behind the wheel of a car. There are plenty of alternatives.”
“We actually need the residents to help us in the fight to make the roads safer for everyone,” said California Highway Patrol Lieutenant Rob Lunn. “Part of that responsibility is you call 9-1-1. Quite often we end up making arrests as a result of that 9-1-1 call when somebody suspects that a driver is DUI.”
In the CHP’s jurisdiction within the Antelope Valley, there were 144 DUI collisions that resulted in 97 injuries and four lives lost in 2012, Lunn said.
“Don’t get in a car with someone you think has been drinking,” Lunn said. “If you are sober, what you can do is offer to drive, or you can take a taxi or get another ride. Whatever you do, don’t get in that car.”
Community activist Dr. Miguel Coronado, who organized the press conference, said he’s hoping the message will sink in with residents so tragedies like Destiny Tennison’s can be avoided in the future.
“When something like this occurs, it hurts everybody and sends a ripple effect of negativity that we need to stop,” Coronado said. “Hopefully by bringing this awareness to the community, we can do something to stop this madness that’s happening in our streets.”
“Destiny was a blessing in our community, a blessing to this family,” said local NAACP President V. Jesse Smith, in closing the event with prayer. “Whatever we do at this point, give us the strength and the courage to do it to save lives, to send a message to people that drinking and driving is simply wrong.”
The family of Destiny Tennison will be organizing future fundraisers aimed at creating a scholarship in her name, Rosa Tennison said.
Editor’s Note: We will be updating this story with information on how to donate to the family of Destiny Tennison.