Pomerado News

Designated driver program in memory of crash victim

Jan. 21, 2009

Nieves wants to provide a way for those drinking at bars or restaurants to get home safely, instead of getting behind the wheel to drive themselves, she said.

She has some funding in place and hopes to get sponsors to help pay for a 10-passenger van, and possibly she can purchase a second vehicle, depending on how successful the service becomes, she said.

Her son, Charles Elias Amaro, II, was drinking with friends on his birthday and died when one friend, Richard Caldwell, 19, crashed the vehicle he was driving.

It was later determined by medical authorities that Caldwell, a Rancho Bernardo High School graduate, was legally drunk, when the accident occurred in the early morning hours of April 10 on Valle Verde Road.

Nieves said that she battled depression during the first months after her son’s death and struggled with what legal penalty Caldwell should face.

In late 2008, Caldwell plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter and bodily injury to his passengers. He was expected to be sentenced Tuesday, but the case is being continued and the new date was not available at press time.

“I don’t want to see him in prison, but I do want something fair,” Nieves said. “If he doesn’t serve time, I’d like him to pay $1 a week for 12 years to the Charles Elias Foundation.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but it would be a reminder of Charles, and maybe he (Caldwell) could visit schools to tell students what happened,” she said.

Late in 2008, Nieves began to rally emotionally and thought of providing a service, which would allow those too inebriated to drive, to call and ask for transportation.

“We’ll ask riders to donate whatever amount they want,” Nieves said.

“Inside the van, we’ll show educational messages about not drinking and driving.”

Will those messages sink in?

“I don’t know, but I want it to be part of the service we provide,” Nieves said.

Nieves has now temporarily linked with another nonprofit, the CyMo Foundation, founded by Kiyan Yazdani in the memory of her son, Cyrus Moinzadeh, who died December 2007 after a drug overdose of Oxycontin.

“I needed someone like her to get me going,” Nieves said.

After meeting Yazdani, Nieves found a purpose and direction, she said.

She does not expect her nonprofit to be dedicated exclusively as a designated driver service, because the educational aspect of reaching young drivers with the message, “don’t drink and drive,” is important, life-saving she said.

To learn more about the Charles Elias Amaro Foundation, contact Nieves at 760-489-9673.

Originally published in the Pomerado News, a branch of The San Diego Union-Tribune