The driver of a semi who crashed into stopped traffic on a Colorado interstate two years ago, killing four people and injuring others, was sentenced to 110 years in prison Monday.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, now 26, has said his brakes failed on the downhill grade on I-70 eastbound before he crashed into cars that were stopped because of another accident on April 25, 2019. A fire erupted that engulfed vehicles.
Judge A. Bruce Jones said his hands were tied by a law passed by state lawmakers that required him to sentence truck driver Aguilera-Mederos to consecutive sentences, meaning they are served back-to-back.
“If I had the discretion, if I thought I had the discretion, I would not run those sentences consecutively,” Jones said.
Four Coloradans — Doyle Harrison, 61; William Bailey, 67; Stanley Politano, 69; and Miguel Lamas Arrellano, 24 — died in the crash.
Prosecutors argued that Aguilera-Mederos acted recklessly and made a series of poor decisions before the deadly wreck, including failing to use a runaway truck ramp on the side of the highway, NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver reported during the trial.
Aguilera-Mederos addressed the judge and said that he did not mean to hurt anyone.
“It’s hard to live with this trauma. I can’t sleep, I’m thinking all the time about the victims,” he said. “... This was a terrible accident, I know. I take the responsibility. But it wasn’t intentional.”
Kathleen Harrison, whose husband, Doyle Harrison, died in the crash, called her late husband 26 years “my confidant” and they had looked forward to retirement together.
“Sometimes it feels like being half a person when you lose your spouse. We were a team,” she said.
She said that she believes that Aguilera-Mederos did not mean to kill anyone that day, but that a combination of decisions led to it, from reckless driving and, crucially, failing to take the runaway ramp and driving into traffic that was stopped.
A jury in October found Aguilera-Mederos guilty of 27 counts, including four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of assault in the first degree and 10 counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree, some of which were subject to the sentencing rules.
The chain-reaction crash and fire involved 28 vehicles. The truck with a trailer carrying lumber was traveling an estimated 85 mph in an area where the speed limit for commercial vehicles is 45 mph, officials have said.