Kylie Doniak

Thirteen-year-old Ekia Smith will remain in a permanent vegetative state for the rest of her life after she was hit by a drunk driver in August.

Kylie Doniak, a former UT student and soccer star, is also struggling with serious brain injuries after a similar accident. Doniak’s parents filed suit in August against the owners of two downtown bars where they believe the driver that hit their daughter was served alcohol far beyond the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle. Now Smith’s mother is doing the same — filing suit against two downtown bars she says over-served Lauren Cherry, a woman charged with failure to stop and render aid after hitting Smith.

A lawsuit was filed Nov. 20 by Kimberly Jenkins, Smith’s mother, against Cherry, the parent company of Barcelona bar and the parent company of Toulouse bar, both of which are on East Sixth Street west of Interstate Highway 35. The suit alleges the bars served Cherry until she was at more than three times the legal limit to lawfully operate a motor vehicle. It goes on to state that Cherry was not offered transportation by the bars or stopped from driving her motor vehicle.

According to the suit, Cherry went on to strike Smith with her car, who was walking in her neighborhood in North Austin. Smith suffered a traumatic compressed brain injury and permanent life-threatening injuries as a result of the accident.

Carl Barry, the family’s attorney, said Smith nearly died from the accident and it is a miracle she is even alive.

“She was in the hospital for 15 days on life support in Brackenridge,” Barry said. “All the doctors told her family in a day or two, ‘Listen, we are going to pull the plug in the next couple days. Start making funeral arrangements. She is not going to live.’ So they pull the plug, and she miraculously starts to breathe on her own.”

Barry said Smith will now have to live the rest of her life with no cognitive brain function.

Barry said he hopes the suit will provide much-needed financial support for Smith, as her medical bills could total $18 million over her lifetime. He also said he hopes the suit urges local bar owners to be more responsible in the oversight of their employees. He said the suit was not inspired by the Doniak lawsuit.

Barry said the owners of the bars have not yet responded to the suit.

Brendan Puthoff, owner of Barcelona, said an internal investigation into Cherry’s actions at the bar that night show the bar’s staff acted responsibly.

“We didn’t have a part in it,” Puthoff said. “My heart aches for the family.”

Puthoff said he plans to respond to the lawsuit within the legal 20-day limit.

Cherry and the owners of Toulouse were not available for comment.

Suzanne Kaplan, an attorney for the Doniak family, said Doniak is currently under a conservatorship and has a long road ahead of her. Kaplan said the Doniaks’ suit against Vice and its parent company, Ckan Inc., and the now-closed downtown nightclub Fuel and its former parent company Yassine Enterprises, is currently in the discovery phase. She said she has high hopes that justice will be served.

Printed on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 as: Mother sues drunk driver, bars for accident 

The family of former UT soccer player Kylie Doniak is taking a stand against the individuals they feel are responsible for over-serving the drunk driver who hit Doniak back in February, turning her into what the lawsuit calls “a young child trapped in a 22-year-old’s body.”

Kylie’s parents, Lori and Dave Doniak, filed suit on Kylie’s behalf in Travis County Court earlier this month against the downtown nightclub Vice and its parent company, Ckan Inc., and the now-closed downtown nightclub Fuel and its former parent company Yassine Enterprises. Suzanne Kaplan, attorney for the Doniak family, said the family hopes to recover funds to pay for the extensive medical care Kylie continues to need after the crash. The family is not suing drunk driver Nicolas Colunga at this time.

Kaplan said the lawsuit will send a message to other local bars about the dangers of over-serving customers. The suit alleges Colunga, 22, had between 15 and 20 beers the night he hit Kylie, most of which he drank within two hours of the accident at the nightclubs Vice and Fuel.

“They are hoping to get some financial assistance in covering what it is going to cost to care for Kylie,” she said. “Right now, she needs almost around-the-clock care. She is still living at home receiving extensive rehab, and she will still need continuing therapy for an indefinite amount of time.”

Yassine Enterprises became the subject of federal investigation involving illegal drug, weapon and money laundering activity in 2007, which resulted in the arrest of former company owner Mike Yassine and nine other individuals last spring. The Texas Comptroller’s office took possession of six Yassine Enterprises establishments downtown, including Fuel, in April.

The suit asks for unspecified damages and a trial by jury. It says Kylie “will never be the same” as a result of the accident.

According to the suit, Colunga arrived at Fuel Feb. 2 at approximately 11:30 p.m. after having already consumed several beers. He then proceeded to drink five to seven beers at Fuel during the next 30 to 45 minutes, showing “obvious signs of intoxication” while he was there. Next, Colunga continued on to Vice, arriving at approximately 12:15 a.m. There, he consumed four to five drinks before returning to Fuel where he was served several more beers.

The suit alleges that Fuel employees brought a bucket to Colunga’s table to watch him vomit and then allowed him to order more drinks. Colunga then got behind the wheel of his 2008 Chevy Impala and ran a red light while proceeding west on East Eighth Street at San Jacinto Boulevard. The Impala “slammed into Kylie” and hit two of her friends. Colunga then crashed his car and was restrained by a witness until police arrived.

Roger Wade, Travis County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, said Colunga is currently in jail and awaiting trial on four separate felonies, including intoxicated assault and failure to stop and render aid, and a Class B Misdemeanor.

Jonathan Insley, co-owner of Old School Bar & Grill on Sixth Street, said he is shocked that Colunga was served so much alcohol and said that would never allow that to happen at his bar.

“We have a zero-tolerance for it, and it’s just crazy that this happened,” he said. “What is it worth, you know, for what? It is just not worth it. You just have to follow the law when it comes to that.”

Carolyn Beck, a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission spokesperson, said an investigation into both Vice and Fuel by the TABC had been suspended for lack of evidence but could be reopened if new evidence is presented in the lawsuit or discovered elsewhere.

Beck said if found in violation of TABC policy, those responsible for over-serving Colunga could lose their TABC permits, could be fined and face criminal charges with a penalty of jail time.

Printed on Thursday, August 30, 2012 as: Doniak's family sues nightclubs for over-serving

Senior soccer player Doniak in critical condition

Texas soccer player Kylie Doniak is in critical condition after a hit-and-run accident in downtown Austin early Friday morning.

UT Athletics confirmed the pedestrian critically injured after the incident was Doniak and 22-year-old Nicholas Colunga, is currently in police custody on charges in connection to the incident. Witnesses reported Colunga hit a group of pedestrians, and alcohol is suspected to be involved.

Witnesses told the APD they saw Doniak and a group of pedestrians walking north in the crosswalk on San Jacinto crossing Eighth Street, when the driver of a Chevy Impala ran a red light. The car then struck three pedestrians, two women and a man, and left the scene said Austin police spokeswoman, Veneza Aguinaga. The other woman was treated at the scene and the man suffered non-life threatening injuries. Aguinaga said Doniak and the man were taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge.

A motorcyclist who saw the incident followed the driver for several blocks. The suspect eventually stopped, exited his car, and was then tackled by the motorcyclist. Police arrived soon after and detained him.

The driver, Colunga, faces charges of driving while intoxicated and failure to stop and render aid, Aguinaga said.

The court hearing for the man accused of injuring Kylie Doniak, communications senior and UT soccer player, was postponed for May 1 by Judge Clifford Brown on Wednesday.

The hearing was postponed in order to allow parties more time to review the case brought against Nicholas Colunga by the Travis County District Attorney, said Billy Pannel, the bailiff of the 147th District Court, which is overseen by Judge Brown. Pannell said the next set court date is May 1, although the hearing will not necessarily take place then — especially if the hearing is postponed once again.

Colunga allegedly collided with Doniak and two other pedestrians after running a red light at the intersection of Eighth Street and San Jacinto Boulevard February 3. He was taken into police custody that night after being pursued and apprehended by a witness and has remained in jail since then. Robert Mueller, Colunga’s attorney, represented him in court yesterday although Colunga did not appear. Mueller received permission from Judge Brown to postpone the hearing. Mueller could not be reached for comment.

Colunga is being accused of four separate offenses including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and failure to stop and render aid. He also had a previous count against him for parole violation, according to court documents.

Doniak is currently undergoing rehab at a hospital in California, according to an update posted by her sister on Doniak’s CaringBridge web page. Doniak has been recovering, although she still struggles with short term memory problems and recently had a feeding tube removed.

“Keep praying for us and Kylie because your prayers are evident every single day,” her sister, Alyssa Doniak, wrote on the blog. “We are continuously thanking God and all of our friends and family because it has only been 10 weeks (such a short amount of time in the big picture) and Kylie is already showing her personality.”

A court hearing will be held on Thursday for the man operating the vehicle that collided with and injured Kylie Doniak, UT student and soccer player.

Nicholas Colunga allegedly ran a red light, colliding with Doniak and two other pedestrians at the intersection of Eighth Street and San Jacinto Boulevard on Feb. 3. Colunga was apprehended by witness Sisto Perez, who pursued and tackled him after observing the accident. He was taken into police custody that night and has remained in jail since then.

According to court documents, Colunga is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. on Thursday in the 147th Criminal District Court where Judge Clifford Brown will be presiding. He is under trial for four offenses including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and failure to stop and render aid.

Court clerk Jessica Garcia said Colunga will be represented by Robert Mueller on Thursday. Mueller could not be reached for comment.

UT athletics spokesman Thomas Dick said he could not release information about Doniak’s recovery because of privacy issues.

According to Doniak’s CaringBridge Web page, she is currently undergoing rehab in a hospital in California. An update posted on Saturday by her sister, Alyssa Doniak, reported that Kylie has had difficulty regaining her short-term memory and had a feeding tube removed last week.

“Thank you for the prayers and support and as always,” wrote Alyssa Doniak. “We love you all so much! We couldn’t do this without all of your help and of course without our faith. God’s still got this!”

Women’s soccer head coach Angela Kelly speaks with assistant coach Keeley Dowling, Taylor Johnson and Kara Hoffman at a fundraiser Wednesday evening for injured player Kylie Doniak. Chili’s restaurants in the Austin area donated 15 percent of each ticket to the Doniak family.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Friends, family and fellow athletes have rallied behind Kylie Doniak, a communications senior and member of the UT soccer team who was critically injured when a driver ran a red light downtown Feb. 3.

A fundraiser, organized by nutrition senior Shaine Millheiser, took place Wednesday to raise funds for Doniak’s medical expenses. Austin-area Chili’s restaurants donated 15 percent of sales to Doniak’s family.

The Doniak family needs all of the financial support that they can get, Millheiser said, who grew up playing soccer with Doniak in California and at UT.

“Kylie and her mother are from California, so between medical bills and traveling, it’s going to be a long recovery and an expensive endeavor,” Millheiser said.

Millie Fisher, the mother of Doniak’s boyfriend, who has been with Doniak and Doniak’s mother throughout the hospitalization, said transporting Kylie to California was going to be especially expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical expenses already incurred.

The high cost of treatment makes her even more grateful for the outpouring of support Doniak has received, Fisher said.

“We have broken every rule they ever thought about having in the ICU,” Fisher said. “They’d like for there to be only two people in there at a time, but we’ve had a hundred people a day in to see Kylie.”

Fisher said student athletes have been especially supportive and that she is surprised by the variety of people offering their help and consolation.

“The whole soccer team and many from the track team have been up here to see Kylie,” Fisher said.

“We’ve also had people in the waiting room that just saw the accident and are concerned with her.

People have responded from Costa Rica, every state and Europe. The response to who she is and her fighting spirit is just amazing.”

Millheiser said she expected at least 600 diners to participate because of the University’s tight-knit athletic community and how relatable Doniak is to all people.

“Support is split between friends, student athletes and a lot of people who have been impacted by this situation, who understand that this is someone’s friend, this is someone’s daughter,” she said.

The University has helped the Doniak family in more official ways as well. UT has provided a room for them down the street from the hospital, a rental car for the first week of Doniak’s treatment, transportation to and from the airport and a daily spending allowance.

“We’ve been following NCAA rules,” said Nick Voinis, senior associate athletics director for communication. “The rules have changed and allow us to do more than we could 10 years ago to assist the families of children injured like this, including providing transportation, lodging and a per diem.”

Fisher said she is grateful for the University’s help and that she hopes Doniak’s injuries remind people to be careful.

“I think it really offers a sobering message to the dangers of people getting in a car when they’re drunk,” she said. “In an instant, the worst possible thing in the world can happen.”

Printed on Thursday, February 23, 2012 as: Soccer star's family seeks financial help after hit-and-run

Earlier this month, celebrated UT soccer player Kylie Doniak was crossing a street near campus when she fell victim to a brutal hit-and-run. According to a recent Austin American-Statesman article, Doniak suffered severe injuries, leaving her in critical condition at Brackenridge Hospital. Family and friends poured out to address this tragedy as Doniak, an active 22-year-old, lay still on paralytics.

Nicholas Colunga, the 22 year old driver, was arrested.

Although Colunga does not attend UT, a large number of intoxicated drivers today are college-aged students. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an annual 3.3 million people between the ages of 18 and 24 drive under the influence. In addition, the UT Police Department has recorded an astounding 250 drunken driving incidents in its jurisdiction over the past three years.

As students in a city renowned for its nightlife and sizeable university, we need to be concerned.

Every time an intoxicated driver takes hold of the wheel, potential for death and injury loom around the corner. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 30 people in the United States die every day because of drunk driving. In 2009, one-third of all deaths on the road involved alcohol and, in that same year, Texas led the nation in road fatalities caused by drunk driving.

As alcohol increasingly becomes a norm of college culture, it is imperative that proper communication exist between University Health Services, UTPD and UT students to increase student access to reliable transportation. Many have seen scores of intoxicated students attempt to clamor onto a single E-Bus on Sixth Street when reliable taxi service is nonexistent at worst and overcrowded at best.

Although the University enforces educational training through resources such as AlcoholEdu, more practical means must be enacted. Such measures could include increased accessibility to E-Buses, especially on high profile days such as New Year’s Eve and Halloween, and advocacy for small, nonprofit groups such as Austin Sober Ride. We must accept responsibility for both the advantages and concerns that arrive with hosting a thriving student population and ensure that safe and reliable methods of transportation are within easy reach.

It would be naive to assume that easier access to safe transportation can single-handedly eradicate the most habitual drunk drivers. The city of Austin should look into enforcing stricter laws concerning drunk driving and relay harsher penalties for those found guilty of repeat offenses. In 2010, Austin police chief Art Acevedo pushed for DWI charges for a blood alcohol level of 0.05 to 0.07. Measures such as these would help deter even light drinking before getting behind the wheel and may stress the importance of maintaining a designated driver. As Acevedo put it, “A person may be intoxicated at 0.05, and you don’t want them out driving.”

It is easy to read textbook cases illustrating the consequences of drunk driving. UT and the Austin community need to step up to the challenges posed by being in a young and vibrant city and ensure that effective transportation and strict implementation of law is readily available.

Akbar is a psychology, Arabic and humanities sophomore.

UT soccer player Kylie Doniak is still in critical condition but is showing signs of improvement, according to an Austin American-Statesman article released today.

Doniak, an award-winning forward, was struck by an intoxicated driver Feb. 3 at around 2 a.m. and suffered a major head injury, multiple rib fractures, a punctured lung, two broken bones and lacerations to the back, according to the article.

Nicholas Ray Colunga, the hit-and-run driver, was charged with intoxicated assault and two counts of failure to stop and render aid, according to the Statesman. He is currently in Travis County jail on $60,000 bail.

The article said Doniak's parents arrived on Friday from Chino Hills, Calif. Friends, family and classmates have poured out their support through Facebook and Twitter, according to the Statesman's website.

Through CaringBridge.org, Kylie's family is keeping the community updated on her condition.

“It will be a long, long road, but eventually we will get our Kylie back,” the most recent post said. “We know people are praying around the clock, so keep your faith because God is good!”

In the hospital room, surrounded by friends, Kylie “ ... opened her eyes and blinked a few times. She also slightly moved her fingers ... considering she is on paralytics, that's a pretty huge step toward recovery,” according to the website.

A prayer vigil was held last night on campus to honor Kylie and to allow community members to pray for her recovery.

Printed on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 as: Soccer player shows progress after being hit by drunk driver

Kylie Doniak, UT women’s soccer senior, was admitted to the Brackenridge Medical Center intensive care unit when a vehicle ran a red light and struck her and a group of pedestrians in downtown Austin.

The hit and run incident took place at 2 a.m. on Friday at the intersection of Eighth and San Jacinto streets. The suspect was taken into police custody after he was pursued and tackled by witness Sisto Perez.

Assistant sports information director Thomas Dick said he was unable to comment on Doniak’s current condition out of privacy concerns.

Perez was waiting at the red light when 22 year-old suspect Nicholas Colunga failed to stop and hit three people, including Kylie Doniak, while they were crossing the street, said Austin police department spokeswoman Veneza Aguinaga.

After failing to stop and provide aid to the injured pedestrians, Colunga drove away and Perez followed behind until Colunga crashed his car and exited the vehicle. Perez tackled Colunga and waited until police arrived to make the arrest. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Colunga was taken to the Travis County jail and is facing two counts of failure to stop and render aid and intoxication assault.

Alexander Hilliard, UT tennis player and friend of Doniak, said the accident was an extremely unfortunate event to happen in a place where so many students spend their time.

“We all walk on that same street,” Hilliard said. “The entire athletic community is banding together to support Kylie.”

Hilliard said the effort Perez made to stop Colunga from escaping was a heroic action.

“I think that guy deserves an award,” Hilliard said. “He’s an absolute hero and we need more people like that in society.”

According to statement released by women’s athletics director Chris Plonsky, the UT athletic department is very thankful for the wishes and thoughts from the community regarding Doniak’s situation.

“She is a beloved student athlete, not just here, but in the entire collegiate soccer community,” Plonsky said. “We appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers on her behalf.”

After a strong start to the season, the Longhorns feel off once again at the end of the year falling to South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Photo Credit: Kiersten Holms | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas soccer season started off with promise, as the team looked like they had the ability to contend in the Big 12. Losing 3-1 to Loyola Marymount in the team’s first game was all forgotten, as the Longhorns went on to win five straight games. Texas was playing beautiful soccer.

Fans who went to Mike A. Myers were not disappointed, as they would see Hannah Higgins terrorizing opposing defenses with her speed and dribbling ability. Kylie Doniak was the perfect No. 9, having the strength to push off center backs, while at the same time possessing the touch that is necessary from a lone striker. Midfielder Alexis Harris was the creative spark in the middle who performed a 30-yard strike against Houston. Vanessa Ibewuike was a dangerous option off the bench.

The defense was just as strong with centerbacks Lucy Keith and Nina Frausing Pedersen leaving opposing offenses frustrated. Even if the opposing team got by Keith and Pedersen, they still had to deal with goalkeeper Alexa Gaul. During the five-game winning streak, Gaul posted four shutouts and gave up only one goal. It seemed like every game she was climbing up the Texas soccer record book.

However, around midseason, the Longhorns went to California for the USC Invitational and when they came back, all their mojo was lost. Before the tournament, Texas had a 5-1 record, but after, they finished the year 6-8-1. That free-flowing soccer the Longhorns played at the beginning of the season was gone, and the team looked stagnant. Injuries to Taylor Knaack and Doniak only added to the team’s troubles.

The difficulties the Longhorns had finally compounded in a game late in the year against San Diego State. The Longhorns lost at home to a team they had no business losing to. Head coach Chris Petrucelli had a 30-minute meeting after the game, before interviews were conducted, obviously angry at the result.

Even with an irate coach, the team was unable to respond and three struggles continued. Texas’ problems could not be pinpointed to one thing and the squad was outplayed, outcoached and was out-hustled at the end of the year. If this program is going to improve, something needs to change. The good news is the Longhorns do not need to look far to find optimism; they just need to look at the tapes and see the stunning soccer they played at the beginning of the year.

Printed on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 as: Texas season ends early; What went wrong?