JUSTICE

Court finds pair guilty for baby’s fatal injuries after biker swiped stroller

Motorcyclist was under the influence while infant girl’s aunt acted imprudently in crossing the road, judge rules

Antonio Ángel Pertusa holds pictures of his daughter Julia near the scene of the accident.
Antonio Ángel Pertusa holds pictures of his daughter Julia near the scene of the accident.DAVID RODRÍGUEZ

On August 3, 2007, Vicente Cosme Clemente and Amparo Navarro Ruiz didn't know that an excess of alcohol and recklessness would cause the death of Julia Pertusa, who was barely 15 months old.

Julia's mother, Belén, left a family party to go visit some cousins. Her aunt, Amparo, wanted to accompany her and push the baby stroller. The two women had to cross a road in Almoradí, Alicante province, to reach the homes on the other side. The aunt, according to her own statement, said she saw a motorcycle approaching but thought she had enough time to cross the road.

The driver acknowledged seeing the woman crossing with a stroller but also thought he could avoid hitting her.

They were both wrong. The Suzuki 650cc motorcycle slammed into the stroller, ripping the belt that held little Julia in place, sending her flying into some bushes. Her serious injuries left Julia in "an enduring vegetative state," according to a court ruling made public last week.

The court sentenced Vicente Cosme Clemente for driving under the influence, and Amparo Navarro Ruiz for reckless homicide. They were given 30 and 24 months' imprisonment, respectively. Based on their income, they must also compensate the parents with a sum of 103,264.78 euros. The baby died two years later, on December 29, 2009.

My wife told her that there was traffic, but her aunt had already begun to cross"

The accident occurred on the CV-914 highway in the direction of Benijofar-Almoradí, a road that has a speed limit of 50 km/h. Drivers are not permitted to pass other cars on the CV-914 and there are pedestrian-crossing signs along the way.

"The impact was severe," said the baby's father, Antonio Ángel Pertusa. "My wife ran to help her aunt up and to search for Julia among the bushes. [...] I could hear their chilling screams as they searched for the girl."

Judge María del Mar Azuar Fernández, who is head of the criminal court in Orihuela, ruled that there was "reckless behavior" on the parts of both the motorcyclist and the woman pushing the stroller. She said that Amparo Navarro "overlooked the average caution of a good parent, and, without thinking about what could happen," pushed Julia into the middle of the road.

"My wife told her that there was traffic, and she turned first to look to the right, but, when she turned back, her aunt had already begun to cross," said Antonio Ángel Pertusa.

Although Navarro denied that her niece had warned her before crossing, the judge said that at the time of the crossing the aunt had the "duty of care" for Julia.

Vicente Cosme Clemente could have also prevented the accident. He told the Civil Guard that he saw a woman with a stroller "about 200 or 400 meters in front of him" but didn't have enough time to react. So instead of slowing down or trying to stop, he tried to pass her on the left lane, hitting Julia's stroller, according to his statement.

The motorcyclist was uninsured, and his bike didn't have a vehicle inspection sticker; he was also going at 89 km/hour. He volunteered to take a breathalyzer and tested positive for alcohol: 0.44 milligrams, when the limit is 0.25. Clemente told the judge that he was surprised he tested so high because he "was in a good condition to drive," but acknowledged drinking "three beers, a shot, and then a glass of whiskey cocktail between 10am and 5pm" that day

The family is appealing the sentences, seeking higher prison terms for both of them: four years for Clemente and three years for the aunt.