A Hayward man was sentenced to a year in jail today for drunkenly driving his truck in San Francisco last August and striking a young boy who had just left a baseball game at AT&T Park.
Andrew Vargas, 22, struck Ryan White with his white pickup truck at the intersection of Mission and New Montgomery streets at about 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 4, 2011.
Vargas also struck a woman, causing minor injuries, as well as two parked cars, before fleeing.
Vargas pleaded guilty last month to a charge of felony DUI causing great bodily injury in exchange for the one-year sentence and the dismissal of hit-and-run charges.
Ryan, who was 9 years old at the time and has since turned 10, was visiting the city from Philadelphia and had just left a game between the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies.
He suffered a traumatic brain injury, as well as fractures to his pelvis, left leg and ankle and a laceration to his liver, according to his family. He is still recovering and has another surgery scheduled for Friday.
In court today, Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai read a statement from the White family that thanked Vargas for pleading guilty.
“We are pleased that Mr. Vargas admitted his guilt and wants to take responsibility for his actions,” the statement said. “It helps us to know that he is sorry, which will make it easier for us to move forward.”
Vargas also spoke in court, saying, “I can’t find words to express how remorseful I feel.”
He said, “I have learned so much out of this … and will do everything there in my power to (prevent) others from making the mistake that I committed.”
Along with the one-year jail term, Vargas was ordered to serve five years’ probation, pay more than $2,000 in fines and fees, complete a nine-month DUI program, pay a yet-to-be determined amount of restitution to the White family, and serve 100 hours of community service by speaking to youths about his case.
According to prosecutors, after fleeing the scene of the crash, Vargas drove to his apartment in Hayward, then tried to flee again when he saw police waiting outside, but was arrested and found to have a bottle of Jagermeister in the car.
Vargas’ attorney, Randall Knox, said Vargas had a friend visiting from Mexico City and had also been drinking a mix of Mountain Dew and vodka prior to getting behind the wheel.
Knox said Vargas was a recent graduate of California State University, East Bay, and that his behavior on Aug. 4 was “really out of character,” adding that Vargas had done extensive charity work during his college years.
“Even though Andrew’s going to carry the burden of what he did, Ryan’s going to carry those scars for the rest of his life also, and that’s what you need to focus on,” Knox said.
Talai said that the White family “was very impressed and very happily surprised by the people of the Bay Area,” many of whom sent the family cards containing money or checks.
The family’s statement also thanked Bay Area residents for their prayers and well-wishes.
“We would love to be in San Francisco next week when the Phillies play the Giants, but we’ll be watching from Ryan’s hospital room and thinking fondly of all the people in the Bay Area,” the statement said.
A trust fund has been established to help with the expenses of Ryan’s recovery. Donations may be mailed to the Ryan White Trust, P.O. Box 562, Langhorne, PA 19047.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News