LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The families of three Las Vegas teens stood up to share their grief Thursday, as 29-year-old Bani Duarte learned her fate after causing the California crash that took their lives in March 2018.
Authorities said Duarte had a blood alcohol level of more three times the legal limit when she caused the Huntington Beach crash that killed Brooke Hawley, Dylan Mack and A.J. Rossi, who were all Centennial High School students on a spring break trip.
Alexis Vargas, who was also involved in the crash, survived with severe injuries.
“There isn’t anything that will ever fill this empty hole in my soul,” Dylan’s father Morgan Mack said to Duarte in a Los Angeles courtroom Thursday.
Duarte was sentenced to 51 years to life in prison, after she was convicted of three counts second degree murder and one count of DUI causing injury in October 2019.
Parents, siblings and friends of the victims stood up to address her directly before the official sentencing came down in the courtroom.
“I’m grieving for two people,” Dylan’s mother Irene Mack added with emotion. “The person I was before this and my son.”
The parents of Brooke Hawley also spoke directly to CBS affiliate KCBS after making an emotional statement. They said they do not feel empathy for Duarte.
“Our daughter was given a life sentence,” Brooke’s mother Rhonda Hawley said. “When this lady (Duarte) decided to drink and drive.”
However, Duarte did stand up and make an emotional statement of her own Thursday. She apologized for her actions and said she hoped the families could somehow forgive her.
“I do want to apologize for my selfish decisions that have taken people’s loved ones,” Duarte said. “I wasn’t in the right state of mind mentally or emotionally. I didn’t think further into the consequences, and I know no words I will ever say will bring closure or comfort to these tragedies.”
As Duarte’s future behind bars was officially sealed Thursday, the parents of these late teenagers said no punishment will ever be enough for them.
“You have committed us to our own prison,” Irene Mack said to Duarte. “We are in prison and we can not get out.”
Yet they hope the chance to speak their stories will help others understand the weight of this never ending heartbreak.
“You teach your kids to do the right thing,” Rhonda Hawley concluded. “They do the right thing and they’re dead.”