GOLDEN, Colo. — The trial for the driver of a semi truck who is accused of causing a fiery crash on Interstate 70 that killed four people and injured many others more than two years ago began in Golden Tuesday.
During opening statements to the jury, the prosecution said Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos could have prevented the deadly crash, while his defense attorney argued the truck driver was helpless and his truck couldn’t be stopped.
"The evidence is not only going to show that he was the one who caused his brakes to go out but that he had several opportunities to make a decision and he made a bunch of bad decisions," said one of the prosecutors.
Prosecutors said Aguilera-Mederos could have used one of four runaway ramps he drove past or stop along Berthoud Pass when his brakes were smoking, but chose to keep driving instead.
Aguilera-Mederos' defense attorney says the truck’s brakes were not smoking on the pass and he had no reason to believe he wouldn’t be able to stop his truck before facing “catastrophic” mechanical failure.
"So when you hear a witness saying that the trailer brakes were smoking, that is simply not true," said Aguilera-Medero’s defense attorney.
Prosecutors called several witnesses who were on I-70 at the time of the deadly crash. Many recalled near-death experiences.
"I was in an inferno and at that point all that I could think about was, 'That is it,' because I could not see anything other than orange," said Edwin Ezeonu.
Ezeonu also said he remembers having a conversation with Aguilera-Mederos after the crash.
"He approached me and he said, 'Do you have a phone?' And I said, 'I am sorry, my phone is in the car.' I didn’t get anything out of it. At some point, he said something that caught my attention. He said, 'I am going to jail, I am going to jail,'" said Ezeonu.
The Lakewood Police Department said Aguilera-Mederos was behind the wheel of the truck when it crashed into 24 vehicles and four semi-trucks, killing four people and injuring another ten. Police say the truck had reached a speed of about 100 miles per hour.
Aguilera-Mederos said his brakes went out when coming down the mountain but prosecutors say they can’t prove that because his semi was destroyed in the crash.