By Alexis Stevens and Ty Tagami
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Cobb County teenager who drove a Porsche head-on into a minivan containing the daughter and two granddaughters of gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes has died.
Mario D. Zuniga Jr., 17, was pronounced dead at Atlanta Medical Center at 12:22 p.m. Monday as a result of injuries he sustained in the Sunday afternoon crash, said Cobb County police spokesman Officer Joe Hernandez.
Barnes' eldest granddaughter, Lilly Salter, 6, was released from the hospital Sunday evening with cuts to her face, but her 4-year-old sister remained in the hospital Monday for surgery, a spokeswoman for the former governor said.
Ella Salter, 4, underwent surgery at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite on Monday for a broken arm and shoulder, Anna Ruth Williams, Barnes' spokeswoman, told reporters outside the hospital Monday morning. The child was released late Monday afternoon and is recovering at home, Williams said.
Zuniga was driving a black 2002 Porsche Boxster south on Old Mountain Road near Marietta when he struck the front of the 2008 Honda Odyssey driven by Barnes' daughter, Allison Barnes Salter, around 12:40 p.m., Hernandez said.
Salter, of Marietta, was driving north on Old Mountain Road near Greymont Circle, police said. The Porsche crossed into her lane while attempting to negotiate a curve to the right, Hernandez said.
The posted speed limit is 30 mph, but investigators believe Zuniga was traveling faster.
Zuniga, of Kennesaw, had to be extricated from the vehicle before being transported to Atlanta Medical Center, Hernandez said. A 16-year-old passenger, whose name was not released, was transported to WellStar Kennestone Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, he said.
Zuniga's father said Morning morning that his son suffered a serious head injury. The elder Zuniga said the passenger was his son's friend and that the boy underwent surgery on his leg and was "doing fine."
Zuniga Jr. is a former student at Mount Paran Christian School, according to David Lowery, a spokesman there. The elder Zuniga said his son was now a home school student. Zuniga said his son was driving his own car and that the crash was "just an unfortunate accident."
"He was just a normal kid who had a bad accident," the father said.
Last month, Zuniga Jr. was arrested by Cobb County police after an officer smelled marijuana coming from the teenager's vehicle at a traffic stop, according to an incident report obtained by the AJC. Zuniga was charged with possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and was also cited for a curfew violation because of his Class D license, according to the report. After his 1:40 a.m. arrest on Sept. 21, Zuniga spent several hours in the Cobb County jail before being released on $800 bond, according to jail records.
The Zuniga family declined to speak Monday afternoon following the teenager's death.
Before Zuniga died, Barnes and his family were wishing the teen a full and speedy recovery.
Salter, 35, was taken to Kennestone and was released Sunday evening.
Williams said Salter was running errands at the time of the crash and that her youngest daughter was not in the vehicle. The two girls were in car seats and the airbags in the Honda deployed, Williams said, adding that police told the family that "lives would have been lost" had the kids been unrestrained.
Salter is an attorney in her father's Marietta law firm.
Williams, who spoke to reporters outside Scottish Rite, said Barnes had put his campaign on hold.
"Roy is focused on his family and therefore we have canceled all campaign events until further notice," Williams said.