Unlicensed driver arrested in fatal 3-vehicle crash

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Savannah Cardoza, 17, slipped her sister’s car out for a spin…

Savannah Cardoza, a 17-year old Midway High School student, became lost on November 3 during an early-morning joyride in her sister’s car. With no driver’s license and lacking permission to drive the car, she left home at 1:30 a.m.

After a stop for directions at an all-night filling station located at the corner of FM 185 and Highway 6, she got back on the road and headed for home driving southbound in the northbound lanes on the limited access highway at Speegleville.

She didn’t notice the red reflectors embedded in the center stripe to indicate wrong direction of travel. A head-on collision with another passenger car broke her bones and those of the driver and passenger involved in the collision. The impact left her car sitting sideways in the road.

The driver of a semi-truck headed north across the twin bridges cleared the one-lane construction zone, then shifted from the left to the right lane before he saw the dim reflection of the one tail light left burning on the mangled car. By then, it was too late to avoid impact.

When Donald Lawrence Ray, a 54-year old driver from Weatherford, swerved the big rig to try to keep from hitting Ms. Cardoza’s disabled car, his truck jacknifed, and his attempt to correct the skid made the combination tractor-trailer flip “several times,” according to a police report.

First responders had to cut his body out of the cab, which a rescue worker described as looking like a wadded up piece of tin foil. Doctors pronounced him dead on arrival at an area hospital.

Police arrested Cardoza at her high school for manslaughter, aggravated assault, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle after an accident reconstruction team determined that her actions led to the fatal injury and the serious bodily harm suffered by the driver and passenger in the automobile she hit head on in the initial collision.

Court papers made no mention of a charge of operating a motor vehicle without a license, or if a magistrate set any amount of bail.

A veteran police officer in published reports labeled the fatal collision the most irresponsible driving he has seen in his entire career.

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