New details in wreck that killed 2 kids

May 30, 2011 9:29:28 PM PDT
We have new developments in the crash that killed a baby and a toddler and injured two other children. The SUV with the children inside had a total of 16 adults and kids -- that's more people than seatbelts.

It happened Sunday afternoon at Garrett and Beltway 8. But even if not all the children were buckled up, there's a chance no one will be charged with a crime.

We hear a lot about buckling kids up in car seats, certainly for good reason, but that same law has a surprising stipulation that may apply to this deadly wreck. And there was another issue -- the traffic lights weren't working at the time.

It's Edward Randall's job to notice things. He works overnight security at a construction site and one thing he notices often is when the traffic signals at the East Beltway feeder road and Garrett go dark.

"They cut on and off through the night and sometimes for two to three hours," said Randall.

Tonight, they are functioning fine, but yesterday afternoon there was a problem. According to Harris County Sheriff's Office investigators, CenterPoint Energy was working in the area and cut power around 12:30pm, so the traffic lights were out. Just one hour later, the roadway was littered with beach toys and two children were dead. Laura Abrego was just eight months old and 3-year-old Valeria Mendoza was also killed.

Authorities say the SUV carrying 16 people -- a dozen of whom were children -- was heading northbound on the feeder when it collided with a pickup. The two who died were ejected, believed to not have been restrained. According to a little known section in the transportation code, it may not be against the law.

"It does nothing to protect children," said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy.

The child passenger safety seat requirement, it reads, does not apply when transporting a child in a vehicle in which all seats equipped with safety seat systems or seatbelts are occupied. It's likely more than just the two who died were not restrained, but the parents, according to our legal analyst, may be protected.

"This law basically says if you have too many kids and not enough seats you can basically put the rest (of the kids) on someone's lap," said Androphy.

Both vehicles should have treated the intersection as a four way stop since the traffic lights were out at the time, but investigators say neither did. They also say they don't think alcohol or speed was a factor in this accident, but it is still under investigation.

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