SANTA ANA, California – The Orange County District Attorney has accused a 23-year-old repeat drunk driver Ruben Gurrola of murder after the death of Kyung Namgoong in a wrong-way freeway crash that injured three others including himself.
Gurrola recklessly drove in the wrong direction on two Orange County freeways with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level more than double the legal limit at .17 percent. He subsequently crashed head-on into a Toyota sedan killing its passenger Kyung Namgoong, 53, and seriously injuring driver Young Kim, 57.
A previous 2007 DUI arrest as a teenager was dismissed after he underwent alcohol and drug awareness education, but it allows the District Attorney to charge Gurrola with murder in the present case. Gurrola is now facing 19 years to life in state prison if he is convicted of the charges of one felony count each of murder, driving under the influence and causing great bodily injury, and driving with a BAC level of .08 percent or more causing injury. He will also face sentence enhancements for causing great bodily injury to more than one person.
Gurrola is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned in court at 10 a.m. on Monday, February 6 in Department CJ-1, Central Jail in Santa Ana.
“Tragically this drunk driver has not only ruined the lives of his victims, but his own life could be spent behind bars for the next two decades or more if he is convicted of murder,” said Attorney West Seegmiller, founder of the Seegmiller Law Firm in Irvine.
The tragedy began on the evening of Jan. 28. It was Saturday night and Gurrola was out drinking alcohol with his girlfriend Allison Poon, 24, at a Newport Beach bar with several friends. After several hours of drinking, Gurrola and his girlfriend took a cab to a friend’s house, but once there he got into his Honda sedan with Poon and headed for the freeway. About 1:40 a.m., he was seen driving northbound in the southbound lanes of the 241 toll road.
Despite numerous 911 calls from motorists who had to swerve to avoid being hit by the defendant, he managed to make his way over to State Route 91 freeway heading eastbound in the westbound lanes of traffic. He struck the Toyota sedan driven by Kim in which Namgoong was a passenger.
Namgoong, was transported the hospital and pronounced dead at approximately 2:50 a.m. Kim was also transported to the hospital for treatment of back and leg pain and an ankle laceration. Both Gurrola and his passenger were also treated for injuries. Poon suffered a broken nose and pain in her neck and Gurrola was treated for a broken leg. Two hours after the accident at 3:15 A.M., Gurrola was tested for alcohol consumption and it was recorded at .17 percent.
California Highway Patrol arrested Gurrola after he was released by the hospital on Feb. 2, 2012,
“Drunk driving deaths take place every 40 minutes in the United States killing some 10,228 people in 2010 alone,” said Seegmiller whose radio show West of Legal recently discussed drunk driving in California. “Statistics show nearly a 5 percent drop in drunk driving deaths in 2010, but it still represents about a third of all traffic accident deaths.”
In 2010, there were 791 people killed in traffic accidents in California involving drunk drivers, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Roughly a third of all drunk drivers are repeat offenders and are 40% more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers without prior DUI’s, according to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). The non-profit organization also claims that drivers arrested for drunk driving have typically driven an average of 80 times under the influence before they are eventually caught by police.
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Want to learn more about drunk driving? Listen to our Jan. 1, 2012 podcast of West of Legal radio show on KFWB News 980 hosted by Attorney West Seegmiller at http://www.theseegmillerlawfirm.com/west-of-legal.html