On Thursday, Santos Gomez, 48, was sentenced in a Richland County (SC) courtroom to 15-years in prison, after he pleaded guilty to felony DUI.
On Sept. 8, 2012, Gomez was driving the wrong way on I-77 just outside of Columbia, when he crashed into another vehicle, driven by 31-year old Air Force Academy graduate, Alan Martinez.
South Carolina Highway Patrol estimated Gomez was traveling at 70 mph, when he struck the other vehicle in a head-on collision.
Martinez was critically injured and airlifted to Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital. In fact, he sustained severe brain damage and was left in a coma for three months.
At the time of the crash, Gomez was drunk and high on methamphetamine.
His defense attorney, Jack Duncan told State Circuit Judge Michael Nettles: "[Gomez}had a few beers to relax – he drank too much, and he was given an energy pill that unfortunately turned him into a wide-awake drunk."
Before the wreck that would leave Martinez permanently disabled, he led a life filled with great achievements as well as sacrifice.
The State reported:
More than 20 friends and family, including Martinez’s brother Michael, were at Thursday’s hearing to tell the judge about the promise of the man whose life Gomez had ruined.
After terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, Alan Martinez dropped out of George Washington University and got an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. After graduating from the Academy and serving a stint in the Air Force, he entered USC law school where he became widely known for a ready smile and his community work with local neglected children and animal rights, they said.
Today, Martinez requires 24-hour care and likely will the rest of his life.
Martinez’s parents have given up their careers and now care full-time for their son.
As per South Carolina law, Gomez will be eligible for parole after serving less than four years of his 15-year sentence, according to the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
Despite his illegal status, Gomez has been working for a construction contractor.