2019 Lakewood semi-truck crash
|2019 Lakewood semi-truck crash|
|Date||April 25, 2019 |
4:45 PM MDT
|Location||I-70 and Denver West Marriott Blvd. in Lakewood|
|Coordinates||39°44′24″N 105°09′32″W / 39.74000°N 105.15889°WCoordinates: 39°44′24″N 105°09′32″W / 39.74000°N 105.15889°W|
|Cause||Brake failure, driver error.|
On April 25, 2019, a deadly traffic collision occurred on Interstate 70 near Lakewood, Colorado, United States, when a semi-trailer truck's brakes allegedly malfunctioned, causing the truck to crash into 12 cars and three other semi-trailer trucks, resulting in multiple fires and explosions, killing four people. The truck was driven by Rogel Lazaro Aguilera Mederos, who was later convicted of vehicular homicide.
Just after 4:00 p.m. MDT on April 25, 2019, an unrelated semi-trailer truck crashed into a Jefferson County Public Schools school bus on Interstate 70 at the Ward Road exit causing 10 injuries. This caused Interstate 70 to be closed eastbound from Ward Road (Exit 266) to Kipling Street (Exit 267), causing heavy backups all the way to Colorado Mills Parkway (Exit 263). About 30 minutes later, all but the far left lane remained closed, continuing congestion into Colorado Mills Parkway.
On the afternoon of April 25, Rogel Lazaro Aguilera Mederos was driving a semi-trailer truck carrying lumber on eastbound Interstate 70. Around 4:30 p.m. MDT, Aguilera Mederos lost control of his semi-trailer truck when his brakes malfunctioned while going down a mountainous stretch of Interstate 70. Aguilera Mederos was first reported speeding as he passed Genesee (Exit 254). After passing the Genesee exit, Aguilera Mederos's truck began to smoke as he passed a runaway truck ramp, without taking it, and instead drifted into the left lane nearly clipping a white Chevy Silverado, and passed the next exit as well. For the next few minutes, Aguilera Mederos reached speeds upwards of 100 mph and passed the next four exits.
As Aguilera Mederos approached Colorado Mills Parkway, he tried to move the truck to the right shoulder to avoid colliding with stopped traffic caused by the precursor bus crash, but quickly swerved back into traffic when another semi-trailer truck was already in the right shoulder. Moments later, Aguilera Mederos's truck was seen speeding past a driver who was livestreaming while stopped at Colorado Mills Parkway (Exit 263). Seconds after speeding past the livestreamer, Aguilera Mederos crashed his semi-trailer truck into three other semi-trailer trucks and 12 vehicles. The lumber from Aguilera Mederos's semi-trailer, combined with the gasoline from the smashed cars, and the mattresses carried by a Beautyrest semi-trailer truck, created quick fuel for the fire to ignite and then quickly explode.
Within seconds of Aguilera Mederos's semi exploding, eastbound cars quickly drove over the median and into the Colorado Mills Parkway exit, causing immediate congestion. The first call went to Lakewood Emergency Officials around 4:50 p.m. Interstate 70 was officially closed eastbound and westbound at Colorado Mills Parkway by the Colorado Department of Transportation at 5:03 p.m. Interstate 70 would later be closed from Exit 261 to Exit 265 at 6:24 p.m. The fire wasn't fully under control and able to be investigated until 10 p.m. that night. Interstate 70 remained closed through the night and reopened at 8:20 p.m. on April 26.
Four people were killed in the crash, all residents of Colorado: Doyle Harrison (aged 61), William Bailey (aged 67), Stanley Politano (aged 69), and Miguel Lamas Arrellano (aged 24).
Mederos survived the crash with no injuries and was booked into the Jefferson County jail the following morning, arrested on various charges related to the incident. Aguilera Mederos was initially under investigation for vehicular manslaughter but on May 3, 2019, the charges were revised to 40 different ones, including six counts of first degree assault and 24 counts of attempted first degree assault.
Since at least summer 2019, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been considering plans for an additional runaway truck ramp east (downhill) of the Mt. Vernon site. In November 2021, CDOT launched a survey, now closed, to solicit input on ramp design and placement.
Mederos was arrested on April 26, 2019, and charged with multiple counts of vehicular homicide. Bail was set at $400,000, and Aguilera Mederos was released from jail on May 19, 2019, after posting bail. A judge granted his request to await trial in Texas, where he resides.
Aguilera Mederos's claim that his brakes failed to work could not be fully investigated due to the semi being completely destroyed in the flames. The company Aguilera Mederos was working for, Castellano 03 Trucking LLC, received 30 safety violations in the two years prior to the crash. Some of the violations included employing truck drivers unable to understand English highway signs. Interstate 70 in Colorado contains many signs, only in English, between Genesee and Colorado Mills Parkway warning truckers of the steep grades, sharp curves, gear shifts, and locations of runaway truck ramps.
On November 21, 2019, Aguilera Mederos's attorney, Rob Corry, attempted to enter a motion to disqualify the state's prosecutors; but the judge denied the request, at which point Aguilera Mederos pleaded not guilty.
Aguilera Mederos's trial began on September 28, 2021, in Jefferson County. On October 25, 2021, a jury found Aguilera Mederos guilty of four counts of vehicular homicide; he was sentenced to 110 years in prison. Aguilera Mederos, who had been free on bail prior to his trial, was taken into custody immediately after the verdict. According to the sentencing judge, Bruce Jones, this was the statutory minimum for the crimes Aguilera Mederos had been convicted. Jones made a point stating he did not agree with the sentence he was imposing but that legally the choice was out of his hands. This was disputed by Aguilera Mederos's attorneys however, who argued that the minimum sentence could be as low as twenty years. Aguilera Mederos's attorneys announced their intention to appeal the 110-year sentence almost immediately after it was imposed.
The 110-year prison sentence for Aguilera Mederos was met with significant, but not unanimous, backlash.
Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the ACLU of Colorado, described the sentence as "grossly excessive". Silverstein criticized the prosecution, claiming they overcharged in an attempt to induce a guilty plea. In contrast, George Brauchler, who previously served as a district attorney for Colorado's 18th Judicial District, disagreed, stating that he has "little sympathy for someone who turns down a reasonable plea bargain offer, and then goes to trial and bemoans the fact that the worst thing that could happen to them happened" and that the sentence was reasonable given that Aguilera Mederos killed four people.
As of December 17, 2021, almost five million people have signed a Change.org petition asking that either Aguilera Mederos sentence be commuted or he be granted clemency by Colorado governor Jared Polis. The petition agrees the accident was tragic and claims that the trucking company should be held liable for the accident instead of Aguilera Mederos. Polis's office released an initial statement regarding clemency for Aguilera Mederos: "We are aware of this issue, the Governor and his team review each clemency application individually." The Denver Post editorial board also called for a commuted sentence. The harsh sentence led to an outcry from many in the Latino community, with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) becoming a leading voice of support for Aguilera Mederos. Visible outrage was seen in the trucking community as well, with some drivers calling for a boycott of the state of Colorado.
Following the nationwide backlash, First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King, the lead prosecutor in the case who personally oversaw pursual of the charges which culminated in Aguilera Mederos's century-plus prison sentence, requested a re-sentencing hearing in his case, with their goal being a sentence ranging from 20 to 30 years.
On December 30, 2021, before the planned re-sentencing hearing, Governor Jared Polis commuted Aguilera Mederos's sentence from 110 years to 10 years.
- ^ "School Bus Crash Shut Down Lanes Of I-70 At Ward Road". 2019-04-25. Archived from the original on 2022-01-26. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- ^ @ColoradoDOT (2019-04-25). "I-70 EB: Road closed between Exit 266 - CO 72; Ward Rd and Exit 267 - CO 391; Kipling St. All lanes blocked eastbound due to crash, use alternate route (Ward)" (Tweet). Retrieved 2020-01-06 – via Twitter.
- ^ @ColoradoDOT (2019-04-25). "I-70 EB: Crash between Exit 266 - CO 72; Ward Rd and Exit 267 - CO 391; Kipling St. Right lanes blocked, left lane is open, expect delays" (Tweet). Retrieved 2020-01-06 – via Twitter.
- ^ a b c "Truck driver in deadly I-70 crash pleads not guilty". KMGH-TV. 2019-11-21. Archived from the original on 2019-11-23. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- ^ I70 Colorado accident before the accident, archived from the original on 2021-02-16, retrieved 2020-01-06
- ^ "'My deepest condolences to the families': I-70 crash suspect shares Facebook message after posting bond". KUSA. 21 May 2019. Archived from the original on 2022-01-26. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- ^ a b LIVE I70 Lakewood Colorado Huge Crash Burger Planet IRL Streams, archived from the original on 2020-01-03, retrieved 2020-01-06
- ^ a b "Multiple people dead in fiery crash near Colorado Mills Parkway; I-70 closed eastbound". The Denver Post. 2019-04-25. Archived from the original on 2022-01-26. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- ^ "At least four people confirmed dead in 28-vehicle crash on Interstate 70, near Denver West. Highway reopens in both directions". The Denver Post. 2019-04-26. Archived from the original on 2020-08-14. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- ^ @ColoradoDOT (2019-04-25). "I-70 EB/WB: Road closed at Exit 262 - US 40; Colfax Ave. Large vehicle fire. Road blocked both directions for safety concerns. Expect long delays" (Tweet). Retrieved 2020-01-06 – via Twitter.
- ^ CDOT (2019-04-25). "I-70 EB/WB: Road closed between Exit 261 - US 6; 6th Ave and Exit 265 - CO 58. Closed both directions CO-58 to 6th Ave, alternate routes include Colfax, 6th Avenue, or C-470. Long delays expected". @ColoradoDOT. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- ^ a b c d "Semi driver formally charged after deadly I-70 crash". KMGH-TV. 2019-05-03. Archived from the original on 2019-11-30. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- ^ CDOT (2019-04-26). "I-70 EB: Road open between Exit 261 - US 6; 6th Ave and Exit 264 - 32nd Ave. Eastbound I-70 is completely open following crash cleanup/investigation". @ColoradoDOT. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- ^ a b Lenthang, Marlene; Helsel, Phil (December 17, 2021). "Over 3 million sign petition to change 110-year jail sentence of truck driver in crash that killed 4". NBC News. Archived from the original on December 19, 2021. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
- ^ "CDOT considering additional runaway truck ramp on I-70 near Denver". KDVR. 2019-07-25. Archived from the original on 2021-12-20. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
- ^ "CDOT: Plans underway for new runaway truck ramps on I-70 toward Denver". KDVR. 2021-05-15. Archived from the original on 2021-12-20. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
- ^ Patton, Wimberly (2021-11-22). "CDOT conducting runaway ramp survey in response to fiery, 28-vehicle pileup crash caused by rookie driver". CDLLife. Archived from the original on 2021-12-20. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
- ^ Naham, Matt (April 26, 2019). "'Complete Chaos': Truck Driver Under Arrest After 4 Killed in Horrific Rush Hour Crash in Denver". Law & Crime. Archived from the original on January 18, 2022. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
- ^ Óscar, Contreras (2019-05-19). "Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, semi driver accused of causing fiery I-70 crash, bonds out of jail". KMGH-TV. Scripps Media, Inc. Archived from the original on 2022-01-17. Retrieved 2022-01-17.
- ^ "Texas Man Accused In Fatal Colorado Crash On I-70 Appears In Court". Colorado Public Radio. Associated Press. April 28, 2019. Archived from the original on January 18, 2022. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
- ^ Brennan, Noel (2019-04-30). "I-70's 'Don't be fooled' signs installed after 1989 runaway truck crash". KUSA. Archived from the original on 2022-01-26. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- ^ Sallinger, Rick (September 28, 2021). "Opening Statements Begin In Rogel Aguilera-Mederos Trial For 2019 Deadly I-70 Semi Crash". KCNC-TV. Archived from the original on January 26, 2022. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
- ^ McRae, Jennifer (October 15, 2021). "Jury Finds Rogel Aguilera-Mederos Guilty On 4 Counts Vehicular Homicide, Other Charges In 2019 Deadly I-70 Semi Crash". KCNC-TV. Archived from the original on December 19, 2021. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
- ^ a b Bradbury, Shelly (December 27, 2021). ""Judge to reconsider 110-year sentence for I-70 truck driver who killed four in crash."". The Denver Post. Archived from the original on December 28, 2021. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
- ^ Morfitt, Karen (December 13, 2021). "Judge Sentences Rogel Aguilera Mederos To 110 Years In Prison For Fiery I-70 Crash". KCNC-TV. Archived from the original on December 19, 2021. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
- ^ Sallinger, Rick (16 December 2021). "110 Years In Prison: Appeal Planned For Truck Driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos Convicted in Crash That Killed 4 On I-70". KCNC-TV. Archived from the original on 18 December 2021. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
- ^ a b Bradbury, Shelly (December 16, 2021). "Trucker's 110-year sentence in fatal I-70 crash spotlights Colorado sentencing laws, prosecutors' charging decisions". The Denver Post. Archived from the original on January 26, 2022. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
- ^ Editorial Board, Denver Post (2021-12-15). "Editorial: Jared Polis, commute part of the 110-year sentence for Aguilera-Mederos". The Denver Post. Archived from the original on 2022-01-26. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
- ^ Roberts, Michael. "Trucker Given 110 Years for Fatal Crash Innocent, Deserves Pardon, LULAC Says". Westword. Archived from the original on 2021-12-20. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
- ^ "Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos: Truckers boycott Colorado in viral TikTok videos over sentencing". MEAWW. Archived from the original on 2021-12-20. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
- ^ Edwards, Chelsea (2021-12-19). "Could Texas trucking be affected by Colorado boycott after trucker sentenced to 110 years?". KRIV. Archived from the original on 2021-12-20. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
- ^ Zaru, Deena. "As governor commutes truck driver's sentence, prosecutors vow to release new information from case". ABC News. Archived from the original on January 13, 2022. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
- ^ Marcus, Josh (December 30, 2021). "Rogel Aguilera-Mederos: Colorado governor reduces trucker's deadly crash sentence by 100 years after outcry". The Independent. Archived from the original on December 31, 2021. Retrieved December 31, 2021.
- ^ Schmelzer, Elise (December 30, 2021). "Colorado governor reduces I-70 truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos' sentence to 10 years". The Denver Post. Archived from the original on December 31, 2021. Retrieved December 31, 2021.
- ^ Osborne, Mark; Zaru, Deena (December 30, 2021). "Truck driver's sentence lowered to 10 years after originally receiving 110 years for fatal crash". ABC News. Archived from the original on December 31, 2021. Retrieved December 31, 2021.
- 2019 controversies in the United States
- 2019 fires in the United States
- 2019 in Colorado
- 2019 road incidents
- 2010s crimes in Colorado
- 2010s road incidents in North America
- 2020s trials
- April 2019 crimes in the United States
- Explosions in 2019
- Explosions in the United States
- Filmed deaths in the United States
- Fires in Colorado
- Law enforcement controversies in the United States
- Manslaughter trials
- Road incidents in the United States
- Transportation disasters in Colorado
- 21st-century American trials
- United States sentencing law
- Vehicle fires in North America