“I remember everything about that night.” says San Jose Fire Captain Chris Salcido recounting the night that his daughter, Natalia, died in a car crash in 2015. For Chris, his wife, Andora, and their second daughter, Noelle, telling Natalia’s story is a way of keeping her spirit alive.
There was no parent in the car
It was the night before Mother’s Day, and just a week before Natalia’s sixteenth birthday. She said she was going out with some friends, and one of the girl’s mother would be driving them. But in truth, there were four teenage girls in the car, and no parent. The girl driving had earned her provisional license less than a month before and was not legally allowed to have other teen passengers in the car.
No substances were involved
Alcohol and drugs were not involved in the car crash that took Natalia’s life. It was the result of just one brief moment of distracted driving. Natalia was in the front passenger seat as the car sped along a dark and winding road. A girl in the rear seat leaned forward to share something on Snapchat. The driver turned to see the illuminated screen and within seconds, at 73 miles per hour, with no brakes, the car slammed head on into an oak tree. Natalia had on her seatbelt and the airbag was deployed, but despite frantic efforts by paramedics and a desperate race to a nearby hospital, Natalia was gone.
In the weeks leading up to the accident, Chris had actually been teaching Natalia to drive. One of his rules was that the phone always goes in the glove compartment. During their conversations, Chris told Natalia about a teen-driver educational program called “Every Fifteen Minutes.” Organized by the California Highway Patrol and local public safety agencies, the program was designed to graphically illustrate for high school students the potentially deadly dangers of drinking and driving or distracted driving. Natalia even encouraged Chris to help bring the program to her own Christopher High School in Gilroy, CA.
Using your voice to offer advice
Just three days after Natalia died, another car crash took the life of a student from the same high school. So, when discussions began about bringing the “Every Fifteen Minutes” program to Christopher, the school was apprehensive. But Chris persisted and the elaborately staged program was very well received. Today, he continues to offer advice from a parent’s perspective and tells Natalia’s story to anyone willing to listen.
“There has to be a strong, strong influence and push by parents to say you cannotbe distracted. You cannot have this with you. I know it’s a big part of your life, I know it is almost like breathing for you. But when you are behind the wheel, being distracted by a little ding – any loss of focus or distraction – can be a death sentence.”