KENNEWICK -- When Teresa Hernandez left for work late April 23, she told her 21-year-old son she would see him in the morning.
The Pasco mother didn't know those would be the last words she spoke to her son.
"I didn't see him anymore," she sobbed Thursday in court.
Michael A. Hernandez died that night in a rollover on Interstate 82. He was a back-seat passenger in a car headed to a Umatilla bar.
His friend Favian Castro now will spend two years in prison for choosing to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol and driving recklessly, leading to Hernandez's death.
Castro, 21, was sentenced in Benton County Superior Court for his guilty plea last month to one count of vehicular homicide.
"I want to say to Michael's family sorry for the loss," said Castro, who kept his head bowed through the hearing.
The sentence was recommended by Prosecutor Andy Miller and agreed to by the defense and the victim's family.
Teresa Hernandez was joined Thursday by her husband and other family members, but it was her emotional statement to Judge Craig Matheson and Castro that brought silence to the full courtroom.
"I can't imagine anybody going through this pain," she said. "I think the loss of a child is the worst pain that you can ever go through in life. I can't imagine no other pain than this."
"If it wasn't for my faith in God, I don't think that I would get through it. I just ask God for strength to get through it every day," she added.
The mother said her family has had a hard time coping since Hernandez's death, as it has changed all of their lives forever. But she doesn't bear any ill will to her son's friend.
"We pray for (Favian) and his family every day, and I just want you to know that we love Michael and I miss him so much," Teresa Hernandez said while facing Castro. "And I just want you to live a good life for him. Please, just don't let his death be in vain. I hope this teaches people that you shouldn't drink and drive and you shouldn't play around with other people's lives."
Castro and three friends were heading to Umatilla on April 23 when he lost control on the highway three miles east of Kennewick near Locust Grove Road, court documents said.
The Honda Accord went through the median, rolled into the oncoming lanes and ended up on the right shoulder.
Michael Hernandez, who turned 21 nine days earlier, was declared dead at the scene.
He was not wearing a seat belt and died from head injuries, documents stated.
The men reportedly had been consuming alcohol before the 10:30 p.m. wreck, and Castro was driving fast and "screwing around."
Castro was found in the driver's seat "clutching the steering wheel," court documents stated. Paramedics and firefighters had to cut his seat belt to get him out so he could be treated at the hospital before being booked into jail.
Also injured were passengers Lucio M. Mendoza, who suffered multiple broken bones, and Jose E. Carcamo, who only had a cut on his hand.
Castro had no felony convictions before this case. The standard range for his crime is one year and nine months to two years and three months in prison.
Defense lawyer Sal Mendoza Jr. said his client recognizes how difficult this has been for his late friend's family and wanted to do the right thing by admitting guilt before trial.
Mendoza pointed out that when Castro was in court two weeks ago, his client and the victim's mother embraced before he pleaded guilty.
The car crash also has left Castro with some mental health issues, the lawyer said.
While talking to the Castro family a week before the plea, the lawyer said, Castro sat in the snow in the backyard just staring for hours.
"He understands the grasp and the vastness of the loss that the (Hernandez) family has suffered, and it will affect him for the rest of his life," Mendoza told the court. "I know that Favian is remorseful."
Matheson, in accepting the recommendation, said he thought it was fair under the circumstances.
"Nothing would bring back Michael in this case ... but (his mother) appears to be reaching out to Mr. Castro to make something of his life, and I think that's a remarkable position," the judge said. "I hope that you've heard that, Mr. Castro. And one way to make up for some of this is to live a good life yourself in respect to the Hernandez family."
Castro was ordered to pay restitution of $21,501 to the Crime Victims Compensation Program and $2,689 to the Washington State Department of Transportation, both in Olympia.