|Two bartenders in Galveston, Texas have been criminally charged after serving an intoxicated woman, Gerilyn Weberlein, who allegedly caused a fatal car crash 15 minutes after leaving the bar.
The bartenders, Shafay Look and Jon Ward, served Weberlein at the Island Pier Club on June 4, 2018. According to Galveston police, Weberlein crashed her car into two bicyclists near the intersection of 69th Street and Weiss Drive at around 10:10 p.m. that night. The injured bicyclists were taken to John Sealy Emergency Room at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. As of 2010, total property damage costs from car accidents made up 31% of economic costs, but this crash cost more than just money. One cyclist suffered a broken arm, cuts, and abrasions. The other, 23-year-old Marco Beltran, died of his injuries around 6:30 a.m. the next day.
According to Galveston police, Weberlein was later found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.103. In Texas, the legal limit is 0.08, putting Weberlein well over the limit. She was charged with second-degree felony intoxication manslaughter and third-degree felony intoxication assault for the crash.
Investigators point to a surveillance video at the Island Pier Club as evidence that Look and Ward served a clearly intoxicated person. The video shows Weberlein unsteady on her feet, spilling drinks, and stumbling around the Island Pier Club with the help of other patrons in the bar. Despite these signs, the video shows both Look and Ward serving Weberlein more alcoholic drinks. As seen in the video, Weberlein left the bar just before 10 p.m., mere minutes before she allegedly crashed into the two bicyclists.
Under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) regulations, TABC-licensed retailers and their employees are legally obligated to refuse sales to intoxicated people. According to Section 101.63 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code, it is a crime in Texas to sell alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person. Bartenders, wait staff, and store clerks are legally obligated to look for signs of intoxication and refuse service if they spot those signs. Neglecting to do so is classified as a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of at least $100 and at most $500, as well as up to a year in jail. In the Weberlein case, Look and Ward have both been charged with class-A misdemeanors and are facing these consequences if convicted.
Every year in the United States, 3 million people are injured in car accidents. Beltran lost his life during this accident, but his family is taking some comfort in the investigative proceedings. According to his lawyer, Sean O’Rourke, his family in Galveston is happy that they are making the effort to look into the bartenders who overserved Weberlein, essentially causing the accident.