TYLER, Texas — A Tyler man accused of driving intoxicated and killing a Tyler Legacy High School band senior had six cocktails at a local bar before crashing his truck, police documents show.
Now, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is conducting an investigation to determine if he was overserved.
Jason Charles, 24, has been charged with intoxication manslaughter in connection with a Jan. 14 wreck that led to the death of Lillian Dawn Thornburgh, 17. He has been in the Smith County Jail since Jan. 15.
Thornburgh was severely injured in a two-vehicle wreck in the 2800 block of South Broadway Avenue Friday night. She died Sunday from her injuries.
Charles, who was driving a black Chevy Silverado, struck the rear of a white Dodge Ram that Thornburgh was driving. Both drivers were traveling northbound, police said.
Because of the crash, Thornburgh's car hit a curb and flipped into the front yard of a residence on the east side of the road. She was pinned in the cab of the truck as the cab mostly collapsed.
Charles was able to exit his vehicle as it struck a tree. Both were taken to UT Health by EMS and Charles was later arrested, police said.
According to an arrest affidavit, while he was on the way to the hospital, an officer heard him say he had his “favorite drink,” which is Crown and coke, about six times at the Rose City Draft House in Tyler.
Police said in the document he told hospital staff he knew he was in trouble because he was drunk. Around the same time, an officer learned Thornburgh was still unresponsive with a serious brain injury that would cause her to be either in a vegetative state or possibly die.
After receiving treatment, Charles was booked into jail for an intoxication assault charge. Police later collected three receipts from the Rose City Draft House showing the drinks he purchased included Crown Royal, the affidavit reads.
In a statement Tuesday, the TABC, a state agency responsible for regulating the production, sale and use of alcoholic beverages, said the fatal crash is under investigation to determine if a licensed business improperly served or sold alcohol to someone involved in the crash.
“At present, the investigation includes Rose City Draft House and Bar, though there are currently no formal allegations,” the TABC statement read. “At this point in the investigation, TABC agents are collecting evidence and working with local law enforcement to identify any pertinent leads.”
Chris Porter, public information officer for TABC, said these investigations can take several months and can depend on local officials obtaining a conviction against the person who drove the vehicle.
On Jan. 16 (two days after the wreck), medical staff told Tyler police Thornburgh died. Charles' charge then had his charge upgraded to intoxication manslaughter.
On the night of the wreck, police reported Charles was “unsteady on his feet, had an altered mental state, made rambling statements that did not make sense, had slurred speech, and was very emotional.”
An intoxication manslaughter charge, which is a second-degree felony, is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine that does not exceed $10,000.
Thornburgh's friends recently described her as one of the sweetest, funniest people and a person always trying to cheer others up.
"If you needed anything, she was there to make you laugh or just make you feel better. She was the most amazing person," her friend Elizabeth Lamont said.
In the band, Thornburgh played the saxophone and bassoon, Lamont said, adding that her friend really loved the saxophone.
Tyler Legacy senior Corey Lawrence said since meeting Thornburgh during their freshman year, there was never a dull moment as she was always making people laugh.
"All the memories that were made with her it was fun," he said. "It was never dull, lovely and vibrant. That is one of the biggest things that I will miss about her."