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Harbor Bridge wrong-way fatalities result in criminal and civil lawsuits

Posted at 12:21 PM, Feb 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-23 17:23:11-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Civil and criminal suits for those involved in wrong-way crashes on the Harbor Bridge have, or are, making their way through the court system.

Lionel Guerra, who plead guilty to intoxication manslaughter in the 2015 crash that killed Julie Gatheral,continues to serve a 20-year sentence at the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, and will be eligible for parole in June 2026.

During a visit with KRIS 6 News anchor Pat Simon, Guerra said he understands the pain he's caused Gatheral's family; but prays one day they will forgive him.

KRIS 6 News spoke with Gatheral's sister, Susan Hardinger, who said she's close to forgiving Guerra and is considering sending him a letter to start the reconciliation process.

Amy Hinojosa was killed by a wrong-way driver on the Harbor Bridge on Feb. 15, 2020, leaving behind three children.

The children sued the estate of Ricardo Zuniga III a few months after her death, and each child received about $10,000.

Meanwhile, Roxanne Palacios has been in the Nueces County Jail since Nov. 13, 2022.

The Corpus Christi Police Department said Palacios was allegedly intoxicated when she entered the Harbor Bridge the wrong way via an exit ramp.

She is facing two counts of intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle in connection with the deaths of Betsy Mandujano and Mathew Banda on Nov. 2, 2022.

Banda was a Navy veteran and had just started dating Mandujano, who was a dispatcher for the San Patricio County Sheriff's Office.

Palacios was also charged with one count of intoxication assault with a vehicle with serious bodily injury, for hitting an SUV. The driver of that SUV suffered a fractured ankle in the crash.

READ MORE: Investigation by KRIS 6 News reveals five dead in wrong-way accidents over seven years
READ MORE: Police share tips on how to protect yourself from wrong-way drivers
READ MORE: Police risk lives to stop wrong-way drivers

Three lawsuits have been filed related to this crash. Janell Donaho, who was injured in the crash, filed a lawsuit seeking over $1 million against Palacios, Flatiron Dragados, LLC, and Railroad Seafood & Brewing.

As KRIS 6 News has previously reported, the suit claims that Flatiron Dragados held a company-sponsored event at Railroad Seafood & Brewing Co. to celebrate a deal made with the Texas Department of Transportation to resume work on the new Harbor Bridge.

According to the petition, Palacios attended the event in her capacity as an employee of Flatiron Dragados, was seen to be "heavily intoxicated," and was "directed by other employees to hand over her keys."

"Failing to stop her, seek help, detain her, call an Uber ride or call the police, they (Flatiron Dragados employees) let her go," the petition states.

The parents of Mandujano, Lorena Mandujano and Sergio Mandujano, have filed a petition for intervention in the lawsuit filed by Donaho, enjoining themselves in the suit against Palacios, Flatiron Dragados and Railroad Seafood & Brewing.

In petitions responding to both suits, Flatiron Dragados denies each and every allegation in the pleadings. Palacios also responded to the first petition, denying each allegation. Railroad Seafood has not responded to the allegations.

Another lawsuit has been filed against Palacios, seeking in excess of $1 million, by the spouse, Christine Banda, and minor daughter of Banda. In response, Palacios denies each and every allegation.

KRIS 6 News asked TxDOT a series of questions about safety related to these exit ramps, any ongoing plans to make these exits safer, and any action taken by TxDOT following fatalities in 2015, 2020, and 2022. We also requested an interview with TxDOT executive director Marc Williams.

TxDOT did not respond to our questions by the time part one aired on Feb. 15.On Wednesday, TxDOT answered. But, rather than answering the questions provided, the state agency provided a statement and said all questions were addressed.

To report issues or any complaints with roadways managed by the Texas Department of Transportation, click here.

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