COLUMBUS, Ga. – A weekend car crash ending in two tragic deaths is prompting concerns when it comes to car safety. The crash happened this past Saturday, as the car rolled over onto the roof at the Victory Drive and I-185 interchange.
Columbus Police charged Francisca Taperia-Santiago in the crash which killed two children — one of them hers. Taperia, 32, had a bond hearing Monday morning in Recorder’s Court. The judge set bond at just over $17,000. News 3 learned that Taperia bonded out of jail.
Meanwhie, the tragic crash is shining a light on car safety. An emotional day followed an emotional weekend for Taperia. The mother’s attorney spoke to News 3 after Monday’s bond hearing.
“It’s sad,” attorney Shevon Thomas said. “And as you could tell, she could hardly keep her composure. She lost a child.”
Taperia faces two counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of child restraint for not having half a dozen children properly restrained, two counts of reckless conduct for having an excessive amount of people inside the vehicle, a count of no state driver’s license, a charge of no proof of insurance, as well as four counts of unsafe tires. Police say all four tires were bald at the time of the wreck. She also faces a charge of failure to maintain lane. She pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Now, she and her family must deal with the heartbreak that comes next.
“The family is planning the funeral and memorial for the two deceased kids,” Thomas said. “I was more worried about her being able to attend.”
Columbus Police say Chevy Trail Blazers are designed to hold eight people total. The day of the wreck, there were 11 people inside, nine of them children, and six of those were not wearing seat belts.
‘I’m hearing conflicting stories,” Thomas told News 3. “And so I’d rather not discuss that at least until more facts are revealed.”
Pam Fair runs the Safe Kids program with Columbus Regional Health. She educates parents about properly restraining kids in the car. Georgia law says any child under the age of eight must sit in a booster seat to limit the impact from potential crashes.
“Car seats or booster seats help the child to fit in a seat belt as if they were an adult,” Fair said.
Police say Taperia had no drugs or alcohol in her system. They say she wasn’t even speeding .According to police reports, Santiago was driving a truck with nine children and another adult inside. The whole incident has people talking on social media. One person called the wreck “Russian Roulette.” Another called for Taperia and the other adult in the car to be put in jail.
“I don’t know the official facts,” Thomas said. “What I do know is that she’s very brokenhearted, as any parent would be.”
There’s a preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m. Thomas hopes that his client can get an interpreter so that she will learn more details and become more comfortable with the judicial process. The Muscogee County School District sent news 3 the following statement following the deaths of Juliana Camaja (South Columbus High School) and Jose Taperia (Baker Middle School):
We are saddened to hear about the loss of two of our students. We offer our condolences to the family, friends and love ones of Jose Taperia and Juliana Camaja Taperia. Our professional crisis team of social workers and counselors are working with our students and staff at schools to help cope with the loss of their classmates.