Death in 6 Seconds: A Night of Drinking, a Lifetime of Regret

December 31, 2013

Two years ago, 20-year-old Desaleen was the only survivor of a solo-vehicle drunk-driving accident that killed two of her friends. She confides that since the accident, she’s been angry and oftentimes reckless with her behavior, including going out partying for days and even getting into cars with people who have been drinking — leaving others to care for her 6-month-old son.







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DesaleenBrendaMichaelDesareen, Desaleen's twin sisterAndrea McCarren, reporter, WUSADr. Frank Lawlis, chairman of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board

Survivor's Guilt

Desaleen, 20, was the sole survivor of a drunk-driving accident in December 2011 that killed the 22-year-old driver and her 19-year-old best friend, who Desaleen says was the only person who had not been drinking. The police report indicates that the driver had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and was speeding when she lost control, sending the car over a fence and into a brick embankment.

The crash was caught on video by Desaleen, who was recording her two friends from the passenger seat. The tape reveals a night of partying with loud female voices throughout, including one person — who Desaleen admits was her — that says, “We’re driving drunk,” and then, “If we die tonight, we know where we’re going.”

Desaleen suffered a broken hip and was in the hospital for five days. She says that even though her physical injuries have healed, her emotional scars are still very raw. Desaleen confides that at times she feels that her best friend deserved to live, rather than her.

See the chilling video and hear Desaleen's account of the ordeal.

"Did you make mistakes that night?"

After the accident, Desaleen says she reached out to the local news to share her story, hoping she could help other teens avoid a similar tragedy. However, she says that she was criticized for making the video of the crash public, which some people thought was insensitive to the victims' families. Desaleen admits that she went back to drinking and partying to cope with the backlash — and her continued guilt. "I was in my 'I didn't care' phase,'" she says. "I didn't care about my life." Desaleen reveals that she has even gotten into cars with drivers who were drinking.

Desaleen also confides that she has struggled with anger and often gets into verbal and physical fights with friends, family and even co-workers. "When I get angry, I'm going to hit you. I'm going to fight you," she insists. Desaleen explains that she has fits of rage where she blacks out. "You see the devil in me," she says.

Help from Strangers

Desaleen says her life took another difficult turn in the months following the accident, when she got pregnant and her mother kicked her out of the house. But then, soon after, Brenda and Michael, who had followed Desaleen's story on the news, offered to take her in.

Brenda and Michael explain that they're worried about Desaleen's drinking and partying and say she goes out for days at a time with her twin sister, Desarine, leaving her 6-month-old son with them.

The couple also confides that they're concerned about Desaleen's anger issues. "Desaleen will say things like, 'I will have you and your whole family killed. I will walk over someone's grave,'" Michael claims. He adds, "If Desaleen does not change her path, she could lose custody of her son. She could lose her life."

"Do you have a death wish? Do you care if you die?"

Desaleen's sister, Desarine, weighs in: "She gets psycho mad." How does Desaleen describe her behavior?

Desaleen confesses that she never planned to have children and admits that being a new mom has been challenging. She says that she gets frustrated when her son cries. "It annoys me. I lose all hope. I don't know what to do," she explains. Still, Desaleen insists that she loves her son and says she fears that if she doesn't change her anger and drinking, she might lose him.

Dr. Phil lists some of Desaleen's questionable behaviors as a mother — and Desaleen gets defensive.

Moving Forward

"I think what happened to you in that car crash was the result of irresponsible and reckless behavior on everyone's part," Dr. Phil tells Desaleen. "I think it was reckless for them to serve you in that club ... I think your attitude was reckless and cavalier ... I think it was reckless to be doing 94 miles-per-hour in a 40 mile-per-hour zone and hit a brick wall and kill two people." He adds, "What I look at is: Did you learn from that?"

Dr. Phil explains that he believes that Desaleen might be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. "I think that you are out there venting anger in a violent way, and you don't have the right do that when you have a child at home," he insists. Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Frank Lawlis, chairman of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board and author of The PTSD Breakthrough, who agrees that Desaleen's symptoms suggest that she may have PTSD.

"You've been through a terrible, terrible ordeal, and you need help to get back to being who you are," Dr. Phil tells Desaleen. He offers to provide her with treatment for PTSD. "There's brain involvement here that might be causing you to experience rage and make certain decisions that you might not otherwise be making," he explains. Desaleen accepts the help.

Web Extra: Reporting the Story

Reporter Andrea McCarren, who covered the accident, returns to the crash site — and shares why she was so determined to tell Desaleen's story.

"She never got the help that she desperately needs."