'I got this': 16-year-old pageant winner who lost hand in ATV crash shares her story only on 13

Jessica Willey Image
Friday, May 5, 2023
Only on 13: 16-year-old pageant winner loses hand in ATV crash
A 16-year-old pageant winner, Esmeralda Tristan, had an inspiring message after losing her hand in an ATV crash in Crosby.

NEW CANEY, Texas (KTRK) -- At her home in New Caney, Esmeralda Tristan gets a little help from her friend.

"I don't think I would have handled it as well as she did," Cassandra Negrete said. "She is one of the strongest people, if not the strongest person I know."

Just months ago, Esmeralda stood on stage, basking in the glow of winning her first pageant, Miss Teen Modelo Latina. It was her first time competing. The high school junior was hooked. Weeks later, she feared it was all over.

"It hit me really, really hard. You can't do that, you know? The modeling and cosmetology," Esmeralda said.

On April 15, the 16-year-old was with friends and riding in an ATV at Xtreme Off-Road Park in Crosby. She said they were about to leave when, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office, another ATV hit them from behind. Esmeralda and her two friends were ejected. Their ATV rolled.

One friend was pinned and died at the hospital, HCSO said. Esmeralda suffered a fracture in her neck, and her right hand had to be amputated.

"I looked down at my hand, and it was very shocking," she recalled.

Esmeralda said she had many doubts pre-surgery, but when she came out, she said she had a completely different and positive attitude.

"I got this. I can do it," she remembered.

She has already done a new photoshoot and plans to continue with modeling and also cosmetology. She is a second-year student and wants to own her salon someday.

"Yeah, I'm right-handed, so it's going to be hard to work with my left hand and do many things," Esmeralda said.

She is already trying. Her mother, Carolina Sosa, said Esmeralda refuses help and that she's so strong.

Sosa also said her daughter signed a waiver at the park and is questioning how a minor is able to do that.

At least two other people have died in crashes at Xtreme Off-Road since 2020. A manager told ABC13 they gave the driver of the ATV who caused the collision a warning that day because he was driving erratically. He would have been banned after a second infraction, according to Jorge Hinojosa, who, since the crash, said they have enacted a zero-tolerance policy and have increased security.

Esmeralda and her mother hope the driver, who deputies believe was drunk, is held accountable. He and his passengers ran off after the crash but left an iPad and DNA evidence behind, HCSO said.

Hinojosa also said the park has video and a license plate for the vehicle that brought in the ATV that caused the crash. He said they are cooperating with the investigation.

Esmeralda hopes one day, she can get a prosthesis. Her friends have set up a GoFundMe to raise money.

In the meantime, she inspires her family and friends with her resilience and hopes her message goes further.

"You can always keep going and go for what you want, regardless of anything. If I lost my hand and I'm still modeling, for me, that's a big thing. If I can do this, any girl can do it."

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