GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) — A truck driver who was convicted of causing a fiery pileup that killed four people and injured six others on Interstate 70 west of Denver was sentenced Monday to 110 years in prison.
District Court Judge Bruce Jones imposed the sentence against Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, after finding it was the mandatory minimum term set forth 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.
Aguilera-Mederos was convicted in October of vehicular homicide and other charges stemming from the April 25, 2019, crash. He testified that the brakes on his semitrailer failed before he plowed into vehicles that had slowed because of another wreck in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.
But prosecutors argued he could have used one of several runaway ramps as his truck barreled down from the mountains. 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.
“Sometimes it feels like being half a person when you lose your spouse,” said Kathleen Harrison, who was married to Doyle Harrison. “We were a team.”
A Jefferson County jury convicted Aguilera-Mederos 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.
Aguilera-Mederos, who was hauling lumber, was traveling at least 85 mph (137 kph) on a part of the interstate where commercial vehicles are limited to 45 mph (72 kph) because of a steep descent from the Rocky Mountain foothills, according to investigators. The initial impact caused a 28-vehicle chain-reaction wreck.
Police said that just before the crash, the truck traveled past a ramp on the side of the interstate that is designed to safely stop trucks and other vehicles that have lost their brakes.
Aguilera-Mederos wept as he spoke during the sentencing, apologizing to the families of the victims and asking for their forgiveness.
“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.”