Colorado trucker in deadly pileup gets 110 years, gets emotional at sentencing

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GON

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The chain-reaction wreck ruptured gas tanks, causing flames that consumed several vehicles and melted parts of the highway.

The Colorado truck driver involved in a pileup that killed four and injured six on an interstate in 2019 got emotional when he addressed the court before receiving a sentence of 110 years in prison.

Rogel Aguilera-Medros, 26, who was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges, testified that he tried to slam on the brakes to stop his semitrailer hauling lumber on April 25, 2019, but said they failed. Prosecutors focused on his decision not to take any runaway truck ramps while traveling about 85 mph on Interstate 70 west of Denver.

The chain-reaction wreck ruptured gas tanks, causing flames that consumed several vehicles and melted parts of the highway. Those killed were Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24; William Bailey, 67; Doyle Harrison, 61; and Stanley Politano, 69.

"I am not a criminal," he said. "I am not a murderer. I am not a killer. When I look at my charges, we are talking about a murderer, which is not me. I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life."
District Court Judge Bruce Jones imposed the sentence after finding it was the mandatory minimum term under state law, The Denver Post reported.
"I will state that if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence," the judge said.

A post from the comment section: I'm a 20 years experienced trucker, and the dirty little truth is truckers receive no formal training on mountain driving. He very well may have been going the correct speed of 45mph, but in the wrong gear. This would have resulted in his brakes heating up and failing. Then he may have felt he was going too fast to use the run off ramps, or he felt he could get the truck to the bottom without using them, which he did, but didn't take into account that traffic at the bottom might change. There should be mandatory certification for driving on mountain grades.

 

GON

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It's a hard decision to hold someone accountable for doing, or not doing, something that they've never been trained to do, and perhaps simply don't know. When one is not trained and equipped for a certain situation, the result is always panic. It's a tough call for the judge.
Based on the article, the Judge did not have discretion to reduce the sentence, it was reported as the 110 years as the minimal sentence by Colorado State Statute.
 
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You can argue the sentence is too steep - that I have no issue with.

However, he is a criminal and a killer. His actions (or lack of them) directly resulted in the loss of 4 lives. Driving a commercial vehicle comes with a higher level of responsibility - and he failed to exercise proper decision making. Was his truck in working order prior to departing out of the mountains? Did he properly review his route for the hazards (steep grades and curves in this case) he was going to encounter? I-70 into Denver is an unforgiving piece of Roadway. Video shows he was way in excess of 45 mph well prior to the Runaway truck ramp, which he failed to take. There were 4 miles or so of roadway with open shoulders that he could have crashed (admittedly not a great option) without hitting another vehicle or person. Instead, he went forward, and in his words, closed his eyes and let what was going to happen, happen when traffic came to a stop.

We can talk about lack of training, etc... But at the end of the day, the driver is responsible for his actions and should be held accountable.
 
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I'm fairly ignorant with regard to safety equipment on tractor-trailers. Do they not build the brakes on these trucks to handle grades with a heavy load, within reason? Or, are they solely dependent on starting off slow, and keeping it geared down, with brakes as a supplement only?
 
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I have held a CDL for over 40 years. I used to drive over a mountain pass once a week. It takes a set of skills to do it properly. I called in one day and my company sent another driver on my route. My truck ended up on the other side of the mountains with no brakes. I had to wait a week to get my truck back. The other driver had never driven down a grade with a loaded truck. He told me that he was scared to death.
I have run across many other drivers over the years that don't have a clue when it comes to driving on steep grades. Like said above, It should be mandatory training.
 
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I'm fairly ignorant with regard to safety equipment on tractor-trailers. Do they not build the brakes on these trucks to handle grades with a heavy load, within reason? Or, are they solely dependent on starting off slow, and keeping it geared down, with brakes as a supplement only?
There are limits with the kind of weight they manage. Even older cars of yesteryear would lose brakes fairly easily in mountain driving. Modern passenger trucks can lose their brakes towing a load within their rated capacity. OTR trucks carry far more weight per axle than a passenger vehicle. ALL, as in 100% of energy pulled down by braking becomes heat. It's got to go somewhere.
 
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So now its the fault of the customer? Was the truck actually overloaded in this case?

Reality is a perfectly legally loaded truck is just as dangerous as an overloaded one in the hands of driver who doesn't know what they are doing. One can smoke the brakes out of a perfectly legal truck just as they can one that isn't.
 
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I'm fairly ignorant with regard to safety equipment on tractor-trailers. Do they not build the brakes on these trucks to handle grades with a heavy load, within reason? Or, are they solely dependent on starting off slow, and keeping it geared down, with brakes as a supplement only?

The amount of heat they generate will render the brakes fairly useless on longer grades if you're relying solely on the brakes. The brake shoes will offgas and create a layer of air between the shoes and drum and they won't work. They will hold the truck and stop it on a hill no problem, but you can't ride the brakes.

Engine brakes / exhaust brakes are a necessity. As is knowing how to hill drive. If you're going to use the brakes on a hill like that you have to use them in combination with the engine brake and perform what is called stab braking. Get on the brakes HARD and drop speed quickly, then let off and let it slowly build up speed while the engine brake holds you back. That works to keep the brakes cool. But you don't want to be in a longer descent situation where you're going to be relying on the brakes because they will fail.
 
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You can argue the sentence is too steep - that I have no issue with.

However, he is a criminal and a killer. His actions (or lack of them) directly resulted in the loss of 4 lives. Driving a commercial vehicle comes with a higher level of responsibility - and he failed to exercise proper decision making. Was his truck in working order prior to departing out of the mountains? Did he properly review his route for the hazards (steep grades and curves in this case) he was going to encounter? I-70 into Denver is an unforgiving piece of Roadway. Video shows he was way in excess of 45 mph well prior to the Runaway truck ramp, which he failed to take. There were 4 miles or so of roadway with open shoulders that he could have crashed (admittedly not a great option) without hitting another vehicle or person. Instead, he went forward, and in his words, closed his eyes and let what was going to happen, happen when traffic came to a stop.

We can talk about lack of training, etc... But at the end of the day, the driver is responsible for his actions and should be held accountable.
How accountable...
 
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So now its the fault of the customer? Was the truck actually overloaded in this case?

Reality is a perfectly legally loaded truck is just as dangerous as an overloaded one in the hands of driver who doesn't know what they are doing. One can smoke the brakes out of a perfectly legal truck just as they can one that isn't.
I drove truck cost to coast with close many times with max weights and weekly trips over the Grapevine hill , over Donner pass and through Colorado [steep] with out any difficulty. Speed is the cause. Driver training, some get some form of it, most don't. I would guess the cost isn't worth it for the companies. I see trucks on the road driving in a fashion I would never consider safe. Trucks can cruise a 80 MPH and some times it is acceptable other times it is deadly.
 
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We had a severe semi-trailer / bus accident in Canada. A recent immigrant from India was driving the truck. He failed to stop at a stop sign and ran into a team bus killing and disabling a number of young hockey players. The semi-trailer driver was tried and sentenced to several years in jail.

There were other people who might be considered somewhat responsible too (though none were charged) as it's doubtful how good his training or licensing were, and there was a grove of trees that somewhat cut off his view of approaching traffic.

There is now discussion about whether he should be deported too. There are people on both sides but apparently a small majority now favour leaving him alone. The argument is that he didn't hurt anyone deliberately, he's done his time, and deporting him would also hurt his family who would undoubtedly have to go with him.
 
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Why should the customer be sued?
So now its the fault of the customer? Was the truck actually overloaded in this case?

Reality is a perfectly legally loaded truck is just as dangerous as an overloaded one in the hands of driver who doesn't know what they are doing. One can smoke the brakes out of a perfectly legal truck just as they can one that isn't.

If you hire someone with criminal record and he ended up assaulting another employee, usually the employer is going to be sued. If you have a farm or a restaurant or a meat packer and you hired people from a "staffing agent" then you are off the hook, of course those staffing agent disappear overnight and the people they send are not qualified. Sending those people to jail for 110 years will not discourage people from staffing this way in the future.
 
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