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Truck driver convicted in deadly Colorado crash gets 110 years

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos was convicted of vehicular homicide in connection with a 2019 crash

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos has been sentenced to 110 years in prison for causing a crash that killed four people in 2019 near Denver, Colorado. (Photos: Lakewood Police Department/West Metro Fire Rescue)

A truck driver convicted on charges in connection with a 2019 crash in Colorado that killed four people was sentenced Monday to 110 years in prison.

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, of Houston, was sentenced in a Jefferson County, Colorado, courtroom by Judge A. Bruce Jones, who gave Aguilera-Mederos the minimum sentence on 27 counts, which will be served consecutively.

On April 25, 2019, Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was driving a tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 when the truck lost its brakes coming out of the Rocky Mountains. The truck bypassed a runaway truck ramp and rammed into stopped traffic, causing a fiery 28-vehicle pileup that killed four people and wounded six others.

Those killed included: Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24; William Bailey, 67; Doyle Harrison, 61; and Stanley Politano, 69.

A jury in October found Aguilera-Mederos guilty of four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault, 10 counts of attempted first-degree assault, four counts of careless driving causing death, two counts of vehicular assault and one count of reckless driving.

He was found not guilty on 15 counts of first-degree attempt to commit assault.

Prosecutors in the case argued that Aguilera-Mederos made a series of bad choices that resulted in the crash, including his failure to use a runaway truck ramp on the highway.

Aguilera-Mederos wept and apologized in the courtroom after his sentencing was announced. He maintained there was little he could do after losing brakes coming out of the mountains.

“I am not a murderer. I am not a killer,” Aguilera-Mederos said after his sentence was announced in court, according to the Denver Post. “I lost my brakes. The truck drivers, they know it’s a hard moment, you can’t do anything. You can’t do anything.”

Jones said he had to sentence Aguilera-Mederos under the guidelines set by the law but may revise the sentence in the future if Aguilera-Mederos seeks a review. The judge said he had “no desire to see” Aguilera-Mederos in prison for the rest of his life.

“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,” Jones said.

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    What we haven’t heard in this case is the pressure the driver is under by dispatch to be on time. Did the driver have to negotiate around other traffic and was unable to use the runaway ramps? What is the driver’s level of experience? Did he have an adequate understanding of how the brakes and truck in general operates? Had he been on this route before?

    To answer the insurance agents’ questions. 35 years ago I was involved in an incident in which a forklift driver ignored my request for loading and I was severely injured and spent a few weeks in the hospital. When the lawsuit went to court the Judge stated, “When it comes to the safe operation and loading of a truck, that driver is God and what the driver says is final.”

    Did this driver make bad choices? It would appear so. Did he make those choices due to a lack of experience/training? I have no idea, it is not mentioned in anything I have read. The Courts appear to be making an example out of him and this will have far-reaching ramifications no matter the outcome.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]