ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A couple whose unborn baby died in an accident involving a man accused of drunken driving in New Mexico is advocating for tougher DWI laws in the state, saying they don't want other families to suffer such a devastating loss.
Zach and Aileen Smith, who was 7 months pregnant, were traveling through northern New Mexico in June, on their way to San Diego for their baby shower when their vehicle was hit.
Aileen Smith and the unborn child were seriously injured and doctors performed an emergency cesarean section, but the baby named after her grandfather didn't survive.
Las Vegas, N.M., resident Ramon Hernandez, 43, pleaded not guilty this week to vehicular homicide and a felony DWI charge, stemming from the accident. State Motor Vehicle Division records show that he had at least four prior DWI convictions, and his license was revoked when the crash with the Smiths took place.
"This is the death of our son," Aileen Smith told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/RcOwpU ). "We'll follow this case completely through and do our best to see that justice is brought to Dimitri."
Hernandez's attorney, Ben Andrew Mondragon, did not immediately return a phone message left Thursday by The Associated Press.
The Smiths were traveling from their home in Colorado Springs, Colo., and had merged onto Interstate 25 in San Miguel County when Hernandez's vehicle pulled across their lane and in front of them, leading the couple to T-bone his vehicle.
Aileen Smith suffered contusions to her abdomen and a broken sternum. Doctors at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe performed a C-section to try and save the unborn baby.
The Smiths held their son briefly before handing him over to a medical examiner's office, which later determined that Dimitri Smith died from massive head injuries and bleeding on the brain.
"There was nothing they could do," Aileen Smith said. "I woke up from surgery and was reaching out asking for my son, and the nurse leaned over and told me that he had passed."
Hernandez's original charge of causing injury to a pregnant woman was amended a few days later to vehicular homicide. He is jailed on a $25,000 cash-only bond.
The Smiths said they are angry over the needless loss of their child and the circumstances under which it happened and that they will push for laws to be changed in New Mexico.
"I lived in Santa Fe for a year, and I knew the drunken driving laws were lax back then," said Zach Smith, who attended St. John's College. "I come from California, where if you have a third DWI, they put you away."
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