HISD Principal Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit After Freak Accident Kills Woman

Bertha Lazcano
Bertha Lazcano
Courtesy of the family of Bertha Lazcano

It wasn't until the next morning, well after the crash, that Bertha Lazcano's family found out what happened to their mother and wife.

The 58-year-old mother of four and grandmother of two was driving home on U.S. 290 the evening of September 11 when the truck in the lane next to her hit a construction barrier. The pickup went airborne and landed on top of Lazcano's Toyota RAV4, killing her instantly.

“One of the most extenuating circumstances of this whole deal was that this family didn't even learn that they had lost the matriarch of their family until the early morning the next day,” said the family's attorney, John Ramsey. “That was hours after [the driver] was allowed to go home and sleep in his own bed that night.”

The driver was 40-year-old Orlando Reyna, the principal at Houston ISD's Madison High School, who now faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lazcano's family.

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Reyna told police that night that he was driving home from Brick House Tavern in the left lane at the time he hit the barrier — the kind lining an exit that only construction vehicles use to get to the construction site within the median. Reyna refused a Breathalyzer test when police arrived, according to the lawsuit. Chris Tritico, who is representing Reyna on any potential criminal charges, said the assistant district attorney decided there was not enough probable cause for the officers to order a blood draw, because Reyna did not appear to show any signs of intoxication. And so he was free to go.

Asked for Reyna's own account as to how the accident happened in the first place, Tritico said Reyna does not have any memory of how it happened because he sustained a head injury.

Attorneys say the police investigation is continuing and it is unclear for now what consequences, if any, Reyna will face for the accident. Which is exactly why Ramsey said Lazcano's family decided to file the lawsuit — for a sense of closure. Throughout her life, Lazcano and her husband had owned a commercial delivery service and she had been a truck driver. She had owned her own restaurant. She had been a travel agent. And through the hard work, she had put two children through college, with the younger two, ages 19 and 23, enrolled in college at the time she died.

“She was the heart and soul of this family,” Ramsey said, “so this family has suffered an indescribable tragedy. I don't think they're ever going to be able to fill the void of Mrs. Lazcano leaving them so soon.”

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