Endymion Crash Driver pleads guilty; victims give impact statements

Neilson Rizzuto sentenced in Endymion parade crash

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "I guess I was lucky because I didn't see it coming, but I remember everything," says Allison Reinhardt.

Victims of the Endymion parade crash had a chance to face the man accused of running them over along the Mid-City parade route last February.

"I remember being stuck on the grill. I remember looking at the windshield and telling myself, did this truck just park a hair from me. I looked to my left and looked to my right and I knew I was in trouble," says Reinhardt.

Reinhardt was stuck on the grill of the truck as it plowed through the crowd and eventually crashed. She says for a moment, she couldn't feel her body move.

"I thought my legs were missing to be honest with you, but I'm blessed. I'm grateful that I have all my body parts, and I'm alive," says Reinhardt.

"I blacked out, and some angel of a paramedic who was off-duty actually got me out of the car," says Faye Thomas Bertrand.

"I heard the crowd screaming and running, and I remember I just broke down crying," says Phillip Bertrand.

The victims ranged in age from 2 to 56 years old. Neilson Rizzuto was behind the wheel.

"He's very sorry for what happened to the victims. Obviously by taking responsibility and pleading guilty, he's saying I did it. I'm owning up to it and it's my problem," says Nanak Rai.

Just after the victims read their impact statements in court, Rizzuto decided to plead guilty to all charges against him. He's now admitting guilt to 14 misdemeanor charges and 11 felony charges of first-degree vehicular negligent injury.

"Well, we looked at all the facts, and when you look at the facts and circumstances, it is overwhelming. Sometimes you have to be a realist," says Rai.

Rizzuto is facing six months for each misdemeanor and five years for each felony. His victims, though, say they aren't interested in seeing him locked up for a very long time.

"I want recovery. I think he has a drinking problem and a drug problem, so something needs to be done," says Faye Thomas Bertrand.

"None of us want to see him go away for life, but we do want justice to be served," says Allison Smith Mitchell.

Many of the victims say they endured multiple surgeries and therapy for their injuries, and they still owe tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

"I hope Rizzuto has to pay my bills. I hope Rizzuto can turn this into something of a positive thing and speak out against drinking and driving," says Reinhardt.

Rizzuto will be sentenced on Jan. 12. He's preparing to read a statement to the victims at that time.

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