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Newport-Mesa Unified students, parents speak out against DUIs

Gloria Morales retells the tragedy of her daughter's accident involving a driver allegedly under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

April 04, 2012|By Jenny Stockdale, Special to the Daily Pilot

The emotionally charged message delivered to several hundred students and parents at Corona del Mar High School's gymnasium Wednesday morning was clear: Accidents happen, but those involving drinking and driving are entirely preventable.

Guest speaker Gloria Morales, 33, closed the school's Every 15 Minutes program. Her 17-year-old daughter, Crystal Morales, suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit by a car driven by an allegedly impaired driver.

"Immediately, when I found out the details of the accident, it broke my heart and it killed me," Morales said to the students. "Something died in me that day. I wanted to take her out of that hospital bed and put myself in it. You never want your child to suffer for something that could have been prevented."

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According to police, the driver, Marnie Jo Lippincott, was under the influence of alcohol and drugs when she struck the Newport Harbor High School senior with her Chevy Tahoe in a crosswalk near the school last December. Lippincott's pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. April 9.

Morales spoke about the impact that the crash had on her life and the lives of her two children. She listed Crystal's sustained injuries — including lacerations to her kidney, liver and spleen, a fractured vertebra in her neck, a broken pelvic bone and traumatic brain injury, from which she has not yet recovered.

After having a metal bar removed from her pelvic bone, Crystal woke up crying with joy, exclaiming that it was the happiest day of her life, Morales said.

"To me," she explained, "the happiest day of her life should have been graduating high school. It shouldn't have been sitting in a hospital bed, happy that a bar is being pulled out of her bones that someone else put there."

Cautioning students against making that decision to drive under the influence with her own tragic experience, Morales closed with a powerful message: "Her broken bones have healed. Her internal bleeding had stopped. But Crystal will probably never be the same as she was prior to the accident.

"But we're very lucky she's here. Car accidents are not preventable, but DUI accidents are 100% preventable. You all can do something differently. You can make the right choice."

Juniors, seniors and some participating parents also shared a series of faux eulogies and real tears.

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