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Drunk driver injures Airman's family

VANDEBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- It's no secret that drinking and driving will put you in jail and has the potential to end your Air Force career. 

What some don't consider is that drinking and driving can also end somebody else's life. 

In California there were 1,597 alcohol related fatalities in 2006 and 31,099 alcohol related injuries, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles Web site.
At 8:45 a.m. on June 7, a Vandenberg member became part of this year's statistics. 

"I noticed that the truck in front of us kept going in and out of the center line of the freeway and I told my mom that it seemed that it was a drunk driver," said Airman 1st Class Claudia Ortiz-Castro, 30th Comptroller Squadron customer service representative. "I should have listened to my own instincts."

Airman Ortiz-Castro, her mother and friend, were heading south on Interstate 5. It was her mother's birthday and they were almost to their destination, Disneyland.

"My exit was the next one and I was a little hesitant to take that exit but still did," the Airman said. "I got over into the next lane, kept driving and once my mom's car was parallel to the truck it slammed into our car."

At this point the truck driver left the scene and the women in the small compact car tumbled over and over.

"The car lost one of its tires and started to spin," Airman Ortiz-Castro said. "The car went up one of the hills, rolled down about five times and then rolled for awhile. All of the windows were shattered."

Once the car came to a shattered halt off of the freeway, the shaken Airman took charge of the situation.

"I was very scared, I thought that I was going to die as the car was tumbling," Airman Ortiz-Castro said. "I turned to see if my mom was OK and saw that she was bleeding. At the same time I smelled the gas leaking from the car. I knew we had to get out of the car because it could catch on fire."

The Team V member then grabbed one of the front floor mats from the car, wrapped it around her elbow and used it to sweep the broken glass from the back window frame, making a clean exit.

"I curled out the window and my friend curled out after me, we then pulled my mom out of the car and waited for the California Highway Patrol," she said.

In the end, Airman Ortiz-Castro and her friend we virtually uninjured, just sustaining muscle soreness, but her mom required 10 stitches in her head.

"We were all lucky to be alive after that," Airman Ortiz-Castro said.

In light of the recent string of DUI's by Vandenberg members, Airman Ortiz-Castro implores others to put family before drinking.

"Before any Airman gets behind the wheel after drinking they should think of how they would feel if they would have been the reason someone else's mother was lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines," she said. "Don't drink and drive. You're not just ruining your life and career, but you have the potential to injure someone else's loved one."