Mom says driver fell asleep while driving on way to Coachella

(KGTV) -- A strong warning from the mother of a La Jolla teenager injured in a deadly car crash on the way to Coachella.

10News spoke with Eva Cerciello at the hospital where her daughter is recovering. Doctors have taken out her feeding tube and she is now awake.

Sadly, her cousin was killed in the crash while the driver walked away with minor injuries. Cerciello says she’s been relying on prayers and positive thinking for strength.

As more San Diegans head to Indio for weekend two of the Coachella music festival,Cerciello has a harsh warning that they shouldn’t put themselves in danger.

She nearly lost her daughter last week. “She's like a miracle,” Cerciello said. Manuela Cerciello-Rahbari, 16, suffered severe brain damage when the BMW she was in with her cousin and a friend who was driving veered off the road.

They slammed into two trees on I-10, 40 miles away from the festival. “Their main goal was to be there at 7 a.m.,” Cerciello said.

They left around 3 a.m., but never made it. “The driver fell asleep while driving. They were both asleep, my niece and my daughter,” she said.

Cerciello says she even called to warn them. “If you're tired, you need to stop. You don't keep on going,” she said. “You can’t challenge your body.”

Their car was part of a caravan with friends and Cerciello feels peer pressure played a deadly role. “I know the kids were texting ‘speed up, speed up’ because we have all the messages.” Now, she's passing along her own message to other parents and their children.

“Parents, they think ‘Don't drink. Don't drive. Don't do drugs…and everything will be fine.’ No, not everything will be fine,” Cerciello said.

To be clear.. no drugs or alcohol were involved the crash, but she just wants people to see the reality of poor-decision making-- and says be smart.

“You will never have the same life again. Never. Never. Because even if physically you are ok, psychologically you will never be the same.”

While Cerciello knows her daughter's future is unclear... “I need to be strong. If I'm not strong, who's gonna be strong?”

She doesn't want anyone else to experience her pain. "[If] I can help even one person, I’m good with that.” It’s is an eerily familiar situation for Cerciello.

Four and half years ago, her son, Carlo, was also in a major accident and suffered brain damage.He is still in physical therapy today.

In the meantime, the family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical expenses as well as research for brain injuries. To donate, click here.

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