Jacqui Saburido, face of anti-drunk driving campaign, dies from cancer aged 40

Saburido became the face of the campaign after a drunk driver had hit her car in 1999, causing a tragic fire that left her with third degree burns on 60 percent of her body


                            Jacqui Saburido, face of anti-drunk driving campaign, dies from cancer aged 40

Jacqui Saburido, known as the woman whose disfigured face was the symbol for dangers related to drunk driving after she suffered burns from a car crash in 1999, has died, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.  Saburido died from cancer in Guatemala, reported CNN affiliate KXAN. She was 40 years old.

Back in 1999, Saburido was 20 years old when she met with the tragic accident that left her face disfigured. Saburido was reportedly on her way back from a birthday party and was accompanied by four friends in Austin, Texas, when their car was hit head-on by a drunk driver. The driver had drifted into their lane, reported the Texas Department of Transportation, who eventually went on to make Saburido the face of their drunk driving campaign called 'Faces of Drunk Driving.'

The two passengers accompanying Saburido had died instantly on the spot, while she - sitting in the front passenger seat - was left with third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body after their car caught fire. The fates of the other passengers are not known. Following the accident, it had taken more than 100 surgeries to treat the burns all over her face and hands. When the accident occurred, Saburido, who grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, had been living in the US for less than a month and did not have any health insurance either, the transportation department had reported.  Her medical bills topped $5 million.

Jacqui Saburido before (L) and after (R) her accident. Source: Texas Department of Transportation

The accused drunk driver, 18 years old at the time, was convicted of two counts of intoxication manslaughter and sentenced to seven years in prison. He was released in 2008.

As Saburido became an advocate for the Texas Department of Transportation's anti-drunk driving campaign, she went on to make several school visitations and used her appearance to show the perils of reckless drunk driving. "Even if it means sitting here in front of a camera with no ears, no nose, no eyebrows, no hair, I'll do this a thousand times if it will help someone make a wise decision," Saburido said during one such public appearance. 

She also appeared on Oprah Winfrey's talk show twice, and in a video on the Faces of Drunk Driving site, she said: "This is part of my mission here on the Earth. If this face and this body can help others, then why not?"