Endymion crash driver sentenced; must write apology letters to victims

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Mario Basantas almost lost his life during the Endymion parade last year when 26-year-old Neilson Rizzuto plowed his truck into a crowd of parade-goers on Orleans Avenue.

"Every day I wake up in pain. I can't live a normal life. I still have to urinate in a plastic bag, and I have to live with that every single day," says Rizzuto.

Basantas was one of the most seriously injured of the 28 people hurt. Judge Ben Willard sentenced Rizzuto Friday to five years for the 11 felony counts of vehicular negligent injury. He sentenced him to six months for the misdemeanor counts. The sentence will be served concurrently. Judge Willard also suspended a year of his sentence and gave Rizzuto credit for time served.

"I think that's not representative in terms of the impact on the victims who were actually hurt. They'll have pain and hurt for the rest of their lives," says Fernando Mitchell.

Victims were disappointed with the sentence, and they believed it could have been more.

"He'll be out on the street having a good time, and I'll still have my problems and issues that I have to deal with every single day," says Basantas.

Rizzuto read a statement to the victims in court. He said, "If I could change the events of the day, I would. Again, I am truly sorry."

"That didn't seem sincere to me. That didn't seem like sincere words to me. It sounded like someone wrote that for him at the last minute," says Basantas.

Part of Rizzuto's sentence includes writing a letter of apology to each of the victims.

"He's very sorry, and I think he's just trying to move on with his life whenever he gets out of the facility," says Defense Attorney Nanak Rai.

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