JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colorado — The attorney for the truck driver accused of causing a fiery crash that killed four people and involved 28 vehicles called the crash a "terrible, terrible tragedy", but said it was an accident and nothing more.
"There's a disagreement as far as culpability, as far as whose fault it is, and what Mr. Aguilera could do or could have done," said Robert Corry, the attorney for Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos.
Aguilera-Mederos, 23, appeared before a district judge on Saturday for an advisement hearing. He faces four counts of vehicular homicide.
His bond was set at $400,000 with several stipulations. He will not be allowed to drive a commercial vehicle, he must drive at all times with his license, he must not leave Colorado and he must surrender his passport, the First Judicial District Attorney's Office said.
"Our community is hurting from this, but there are families who lost people. And there's nothing like losing somebody in a vehicle accident or surprise situation," said Corry. "There's nothing we can do to bring these people back."
Over the weekend the four people killed in the crash were identified.
- Doyle Harrison, 61, of Hudson, Colorado
- William Bailey, 67, of Arvada, Colorado
- Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24, of Denver, Colorado
- Stanley Politano, 69, of Arvada Colorado
Politano’s wife, Cathi, told 9NEWS that her husband was the Executive Vice President for casino development company Jacobs Entertainment. He was also a graduate of Wheat Ridge High School.
9NEWS is working to learn more about each of the victims. Lakewood police said all four were in separate cars and alone when the semi-truck driven by Aguilera-Mederos crashed into them just before 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Ten other people were treated for injuries at St. Anthony's Hospital.
Aguilera-Mederos, of Houston, was taken into custody on four charges of vehicular homicide, according to Lakewood PD. Charges have not been officially filed.
"I think he is suffering from survivors guilt," Corry said. "He is in deep sorrow. He can't sleep, eat. This is by far the worst thing that has ever happened to him in his life. Really unimaginable the degree of damage and tragedy."
According to an arrest affidavit released Saturday, Aguilera-Mederos told investigators that his brakes failed just prior to the crash. Monday morning, Lakewood police confirmed that Aguilera-Mederos was driving for Castellano 03 Trucking.
Online inspection reports from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reveal 30 violations connected to Castellano 03 trucking since late 2017.
At least 10 violations include issues like “brake tubing and hose adequacy” and “clamp or Roto type brake out-of-adjustment," the reports say.
"We believe there was some sort of malfunction and there's good evidence of that," Corry said. "This is a man who has no traffic offenses on his record. None, not even a speeding ticket that he was convicted of. No criminal record at all."
The report says Aguilera-Mederos noticed his speedometer showed 85 mph. He told investigators he had to get over onto the shoulder to avoid stopped traffic, but when he tried to, he noticed another semi-truck already there.
According to the arrest report, because of the semi on the shoulder, Aguilera-Mederos told law enforcement he decided to swerve back toward traffic. He said he thought he was going to die so he "closed his eyes before hitting the stopped traffic," the affidavit says.
Two witnesses interviewed by law enforcement said they noticed what would turn out to be Aguilera-Mederos' semi-truck speeding past them near the buffalo herd overlook at Lookout Mountain. The pair of men said they followed the semi-truck and saw it driving in all three lanes and, at one point, it forced a pickup truck off the left side of the highway. Video provided by the witnesses show the semi-truck ignoring a runaway ramp, the affidavit says.
"As far as the criminal system, it assigns culpability for intentional acts, which this wasn't, but it can also assign culpability for negligent or reckless acts. That must be their theory at this point," said Corry.
Aguilera-Mederos had a valid Texas commercial drivers license and had used it "for some months", Corry said. He also noted that his client had driven in Colorado and Wyoming before but did not want to speculate about his experience driving in mountainous areas.
"I'm not minimizing the injury and sorrow and pain to the people injured or killed in this accident," Corry said. "But I think there are many sides of this story that will be told in the coming days."
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