A truck driver who said he lost his brakes on a steep grade in Colorado has been sentenced to 110 years in prison for the four people who were killed in the resulting 28-vehicle crash.
Truck driver Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, now 26, has said his brakes failed on the downhill grade on I-70 eastbound that day in April 2019. He crashed into 24 cars and four trucks that were stopped because of another accident. The resulting flames consumed several vehicles and melted parts of the highway, as can be seen in this news report after the crash.
A particularly damning video of Aguilera-Mederos’ truck moments before the accident showed the truck swerving down the highway at speeds in excess of 80 mph, passing a runaway ramp/arrestor bed that could have prevented the tragedy.
The crash occurred on a part of the interstate where commercial vehicles are limited to 45 mph because the steep descent. Police said Aguilera-Mederos’ truck was traveling 85 mph when he slammed into the stopped after passing multiple runaway truck ramp signs. He allegedly told police from a hospital after the crash that his brakes failed, and he didn’t want to exit the highway for fear of rolling his semitrailer. Because the truck was destroyed in the crash, investigators were unable to examine it for clues to mechanical failure.
Aguilera-Mederos was convicted earlier this year on 27 charges, including four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault, 10 counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree- extreme indifference, two counts of vehicular assault- reckless, one count of reckless driving, and four counts of careless driving causing death. He was found not guilty on 15 counts of criminal attempt to commit assault in the first degree.
Under Colorado law, prosecutors only had to prove that Aguilera-Mederos acted recklessly. When the charges were first announced, prosecutors said he would be prosecuted under an extreme indifference theory — that the driver was so reckless in his actions that he showed no regard for human life.
District Court Judge Bruce Jones told Aguilera-Mederos that he felt compelled to issue the stiff prison term due to mandatory minimum sentencing standards in Colorado that require the sentences to be served consecutively rather than concurrently.
“I accept and respect what the defendant has said about his lack of intent to hurt people, but he made a series of terrible decisions, reckless decisions,” the judge said.