A Family Vacation Ending in Tragedy

By Matthew Mantanona

On the afternoon of May 13, 2011 we were on our way to Sea World in San Antonio for a mini family vacation when our lives changed forever. A truck failed to stop at a country road intersection and smashed into our vehicle.

It all happened so quickly. Moments later, I woke to the screams of my wife Michelle that our 8-year-old son Jarrett did not have a pulse. For 45 minutes – which felt like an eternity – I tried to revive my son, only to have responders tell me to stop and that he was gone. It was like a scene out of a movie as they covered Jarrett with a white blanket.

I completely lost it and attempted to run after the man that killed my son. Thankfully, I was stopped by some first responders. The next thing on my mind was … how will I explain this to my youngest son Jonathan, who was only 3 years old. 

I carried Jonathan to where Jarrett laid covered with a thin white blanket and sat down on the road.  I tried to explain to him that brother Jarrett is in heaven now and he’s not coming back.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. As a man, a father and a husband I was supposed to protect my family, I was supposed to fix what was broken. This I could not fix.

Later we find out the 18-year-old driver, along with two other underage females, was under the influence of alcohol. A fourth person, a 33-year-old man, was later arrested for fleeing the scene, and it was determined that he had provided the alcohol to these individuals. 

We have turned our loss into something positive, sharing our story on many occasions in hopes that we can bring an end to drinking and driving. We have gone to the Texas State Capital, with the assistance of Rep. Susan King and staff to try and pass two piece of legislation that would change how adults are held accountable for providing alcohol to minors. If an underage drinker causes a person to suffer serious bodily injury or death, the adult providing the alcohol would face felony charges. This would make it clear that adults should not be providing alcoholic beverages to minors. The second bill realigns the legal drinking age as it relates to civil liability. Currently, liability exists only for providing alcohol to anyone under the age 18. This bill would treat anyone under 21 as a minor as it relates to intoxication.  We have testified on two separate occasions. But unfortunately, both times the bills fell short of being heard on the floor.

Four years have passed, but the pain is always there. We just hope that our story and the stories of many others that have been in our shoes, will change those that take for granted their lives and lives around them when they decided to drink and get behind the wheel.