DUI crash survivor who lost brother, unborn twins now pays for NYE Uber rides for others

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This past year has been about emotional healing for Raquel Haralambou.

The day after Christmas in 2020, Haralambou and her family were hit by a drunk driver in St. Augustine.

Haralambou was seriously injured. The crash killed her brother, Jimmy, and her unborn twin girls, Jennie and Piper.

“This year was more of the emotional battle and realizing what we actually lost in front of us,” Haralambou said.

The driver in that crash, Michael Rhein, was sentenced in October to more than 40 years in prison.

RELATED: ‘He doesn’t know how much he did’: Woman who lost unborn twins, brother in DUI crash awaits sentencing for driver | ‘I hate myself every day’: Man sentenced to 41 years for DUI crash that killed unborn twins, their uncle

“This year I should’ve been chasing around two more children, asking them not to touch the ornaments on the Christmas tree,” Haralambou said. “I would’ve been buying more gifts to go under the tree.”

The Haralambous had painted a room pink for their twin girls. (WJXT)

Haralambou is turning her pain into action. This is her second year of paying for Uber rides for those who had too much to drink and should not be behind the wheel.

It is through an organization Haralambou started called The Lion and 2 Cubs in honor of her brother and twin girls.

You can request one of those rides by texting this number: 772-222-3030.

In that text just send your email address. You do not have to give a name.

Then Haralambou will send a gift card of up to $25 to use toward a ride. That would be uploaded to your Uber app or account.

“People drink, but they do not think about how they are getting home that night,” she said.

Haralambou has paid more than $625 in Uber rides since starting the organization in 2021.

Other groups are making similar moves this New year’s Eve.

Jacksonville law firm Farah & Farah once again is offering free rides.

RELATED: Free Uber and cab rides in Jacksonville and St. Augustine on New Year’s Eve

Those rides are via Uber or a cab and will run from 8 p.m. Saturday to 4 a.m. Sunday.

The ride is offered for up to 30 miles away both in Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

So far, the law firm has given away 4,500 vouchers and has 500 more available on Saturday.

AAA also has a program called “Tow to Go.”

A driver who has had too much to drink and their car can be towed to a safe location within a 10-mile radius.

That option is available between now and Jan. 2 at 6 p.m. You don’t have to be a AAA member. For more information, call 855-286-9246.

RELATED: Officials urge people not to drink and drive ahead of New Year’s festivities

Haralambou said getting behind the wheel while impaired is a bad choice that can have devastating consequences.

Raquel Haralambou spent two months in the ICU, undergoing numerous surgeries. Doctors had to revive her twice. (Photo provided by family)

“It just takes one person. One phone call,” she said. “If he would have just asked somebody to give him a ride that night, our lives maybe would be different.”

The National Safety Council is estimating more than 400 people will die on roads across the country during this New Year’s holiday weekend.

The national average of crashes is almost 12% higher than any other holiday throughout the year.


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