An allegedly intoxicated driver and two bartenders are facing charges following the death of a bicyclist who was fatally struck at night in Galveston, Texas. According to local police, bartenders Shafay Look, 34, and Jon Ward, 56, were arrested on Monday on one count each of selling an alcoholic beverage to an intoxicated person. Police reports allege that Look and Ward served Gerilyn Weberlein on June 4 at the Island Pier Club bar. Despite Weberlein’s signs of intoxication, they continued to serve her. Weberlein was visibly unbalanced and needed help from other bar flies. She also spilled drinks.
Less than 15 minutes after surveillance video showed her leaving the watering hole, Weberlein drove into a group of five bicyclists, striking and killing student Marco Beltran, 23, with her car. Another bicyclist was also hurt in the incident but survived. When questioned by police, Weberlein admitted to drinking only one serving of beer. Weberlein’s car was traveling between 35 and 45 miles per hour when she struck the two students. Beltran went through the windshield.
According to police, Weberlein's blood alcohol content registered as .103, even several hours after the tragedy. She stands charged with counts of intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter. Look and Ward were released on bonds of $7,500 each. They could face a year in jail and a $500 fine if found guilty.
Beltran was present in the United States on a work visa. A native of Colombia, Beltran’s family has Sean O'Rourke as legal counsel. The two young men had J-1 visas, issued by the U.S. Department of State to students to live in the U.S. and work temporary jobs during the summer months. Both students were taken to a University of Texas hospital for treatment. Beltran died as a result of his injuries. He had been in the U.S. only three weeks but had recently graduated from the Galveston Island Beach Patrol lifeguard academy.
Police say the area where Beltran was killed is poorly lit. The bicycles were equipped with reflectors but had no lights.
Beltran’s family flew from Colombia to Galveston, where they were met with sympathy from the local community. Beltran's sister, Paola, thanked the community for its support and “the love that they are sharing to us.” A memorial service was held on June 9 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston. The Beltran family has filed a civil suit against driver Weberlein, and Joseph Schmal of Texas City. Schmal is the owner of the car that Weberlein was driving.
More than half of the states in the U.S. have laws on the books that describe the circumstances in which an establishment that provides alcohol to a person can be held liable for the acts of the intoxicated person. In Oregon, for instance, state law specifies that patron or guest who voluntarily consumes alcoholic beverages from a licensed seller cannot sue the server of the alcoholic beverages for injuries resulting from intoxication. However, in some instances, the provider of the alcohol also be held liable for the injured person’s damages.