It’s been nine difficult years for the Talamantes Family. On December 29, 2007 their world was shattered when 19-year-old Valerie Talamantes was rear-ended by a drunk driver just blocks from her East El Paso Home.
Valerie was a bright, outgoing and passionate popular teenager. She was a recent graduate of Burges High School. And then in an instant it was gone.
In the nine years since her death, her family has held vigil every December 29th at the site of her death on Hawkins and Montana. It’s the same site where a cross sits year-round to remind passers-by of how quickly drunk driving can shatter the lives of a family– or several families.
The family hopes that their annual vigil, just days before New Year’s sends a message to other drivers not to drink and drive this holiday season.
“Either give the keys to somebody else, call Uber, call a tow truck, have a backup plan because that split second they think that they are okay to drive, they may not be.” Valerie’s mom, Grace tells us.
Unfortunately, Talamantes’ tragic death isn’t the only DWI crash that is remembered annually in he Borderland. Two years ago on December 23 2014, Shannon Del Rio along with Josh and Isaiah Deal were all killed in a fiery crash as they were leaving a family Christmas gathering. The man accused of drinking and driving in that crash, Joel Garcia, is still awaiting trial.
In 2011, 23-year-old Kimberly Araujo and 19-year-old Idaly Reyes were killed December 28th when the car they were passengers in careened out of control on Mesa St., slamming into a building and bursting into flames. The driver of that vehicle, Miguel Vargas, was sentenced to 16-years in prison in 2012.
These are just a handful of the deadly crashes in the Borderland during the Holiday season due to drunk driving crashes.
As for the Talamantes family, the Fort Bliss Soldier who struck and killed Valerie, Edison Bayas, was sentenced to 15-years in prison. Though the legal process is over, the pain will remain with the family forever.