Not Everyone Who Gets Hit by a Drunk Driver Dies

Jacqueline Saburido


Jacqueline “Jacqui” Saburido (b. December 20, 1978) is a victim and survivor of a drunk driving accident. She has publicized her own disfigurement to show the potential consequences of drunk driving.


About Jacqueline

The only child of Rosalia and Amadeo, Saburido lived in Caracas, Venezuela for all of her childhood. Living with her father after her parents divorced, she began studying engineering in the hope of taking over the family air conditioning business. In 1999, Saburido was struggling in college and decided to take a break. She took a trip to Texas to study English.

The accident

In September 1999, Saburido attended a birthday party near Austin, Texas. She and her friends Laura Guerrero, Johan Daal, and Johanna Gil accepted a ride home from a classmate, Natalia Chpytchak Bennett. Reginald Stephey, a 17-year-old high school student, was on his way home after drinking beer with his friends. On the outskirts of Austin, Stephey’s 1996 GMC Yukon veered into Bennett’s 1990 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency, which was carrying Saburido and the others. Guerrero and Bennett were killed instantly. Gil and Daal were injured but not seriously. Saburido’s feet were trapped under the seat and she could not get out in time.

The car caught fire. Two paramedics, John McIntosh and Bryan Fitzpatrick, happened to be driving past when Stephey flagged them down. The flames were leaping several feet up into the air as they arrived. McIntosh put out the fire with his extinguisher and the two men set about removing everyone from the vehicle.

Saburido was trapped, and the fire returned. McIntosh and Fitzpatrick were forced back, and Saburido was left to burn for around 45 seconds as the flames engulfed the vehicle. A fire truck arrived and put out the fire, Saburido was cut from the car and airlifted to the burns unit in Galveston.

Saburido suffered burns, mainly third degree, to over 60% of her body. She survived, reportedly despite the expectations of her doctors. All of her fingers were burned off, but there was enough bone left on her thumb to construct an opposable thumb. She lost her hair, ears, nose, lips, left eyelid and much of her vision. She has undergone more than 150 operations since the crash, including cornea transplants, which have restored her vision.


In June 2001, Reginald Stephey was convicted on two counts of intoxicated manslaughter. He was sentenced to two concurrent seven-year prison sentences and fined $20,000. An appeal was refused.

Saburido decided to use her tragedy to help others. She allowed graphic post-accident photographs of herself to be used in the media (posters, TV commercials, and internet chain mail) to illustrate a possible outcome of a drunk driving accident. She is most well known for a commercial in which she holds a pre-accident photo of herself in front of the camera, which she lowers to reveal her disfigured face and says, “This is me, after being hit by a drunk driver.”

Saburido appeared on Oprah Winfrey talk show on November 17, 2003. She was also interviewed on the Australian 60 Minutes on March 14, 2004 and was featured in a Discovery Health documentary on face transplants. She continues to educate people on drunk driving. Oprah said that Saburido was the one person she had met who defined inner beauty.

Saburido’s story was featured in the motivational presentation Inside Out by Motivational Productions.

Saburido is currently living in Kentucky, to enable better transportation to her doctors. Her mother Rosalia has just been diagnosed with cancer.

Although the event took place in Texas, Saburido’s story is often told throughout the USA.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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