GOLDEN, Colo. — The man in custody accused of causing a deadly wreck on Interstate 70 Thursday evening appeared in Jefferson County court Saturday morning for his first advisement.
Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23, appeared before a district judge and had his bond set at $400,000 with several stipulations. He will not be allowed to drive a commercial vehicle, he must drive at all times with his license, he must not leave Colorado and he must surrender his passport, the First Judicial District Attorney's Office said.
Aguilera-Mederos was the driver of the semi-truck who Lakewood Police Department said caused the crash. The Houston resident was taken into custody on four charges of vehicular homicide at the time of his arrest, according to Lakewood PD.
The district attorney asked for a higher bond — $500,000 — citing Aguilera-Mederos's status as a green card holder from Cuba with no ties to Colorado and only a girlfriend in Houston. The prosecutor said Aguilera-Mederos has only been in Texas for two years and his only ties there is a girlfriend. She also said he may face a very long prison sentence if convicted.
The defense argued the prosecution was already attempting to try the case and pointed to Aguilera-Mederos's sorrow for the victims of the accident. His attorney said Aguilera-Mederos's cooperation with this investigation should be taken into consideration when setting bond, as well as his lack of criminal history. Aguilera-Mederos has family all over the Houston area and some in Miami, according to his defense.
Aguilera-Mederos could be seen crying and wiping his eyes throughout the hearing.
Charges have not been filed. Aguilera-Mederos is due back in court on May 3 at 10 a.m., according to a spokesperson for the First Judicial District Attorney's Office.
Four people died and at least six others were injured in the crash that involved 24 passenger vehicles and four semi-trucks. Both lanes of I-70 were closed for over 20 hours after the wreck as a Colorado Department of Transportation crew removed some damaged asphalt and repaved the highway.
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According to an arrest affidavit released Saturday, Aguilera-Mederos told investigators that his brakes failed just prior to the accident.
The report says Aguilera-Mederos noticed his speedometer showed 85 mph. He told investigators he had to get over onto the shoulder to avoid stopped traffic, but when he tried to, he noticed another semi-truck already there.
According to the arrest report, because of the semi on the shoulder, Aguilera-Mederos told law enforcement he decided to swerve back toward traffic. He said he thought he was going to die so he "closed his eyes before hitting the stopped traffic," the affidavit says.
He told law enforcement he somehow survived and was able to get out of the burning wreckage. He was taken to St. Anthony's Hospital for treatment.
Two witnesses interviewed by law enforcement said they noticed what would turn out to be Aguilera-Mederos' semi-truck speeding past them near the buffalo herd overlook at Lookout Mountain. The pair of men said they followed the semi-truck and saw it driving in all three lanes and, at one point, it forced a pickup truck off the left side of the highway.
The witnesses also told law enforcement that they could see a trail of fluid coming from the rear of the trailer.
Video provided by the witnesses show the semi-truck ignoring a runaway ramp, the affidavit says. Upon review of the video provided by the pair of witnesses, law enforcement checked what happened near the runaway ramp: The sign had its three yellow, flashing lights on top working properly. The sign reads, in all caps, "Runaway truck ramp 2000 feet" with an arrow pointing to the farthest lane.
The affidavit says Aguilera-Mederos could have pulled off onto the runaway ramp; There was nothing blocking the semi's path to the ramp. There were also several more warning signs the semi drove past, the affidavit says.
Another witness spoke to law enforcement and said he tried to flag down the semi driver after noticing the semi going very quickly down I-70 East from the mountains, the affidavit says. The witness told investigators he noticed something was wrong when "the driver of the semi was 'wide-eyed' with a terrified look on his face," the affidavit says.
One witness told investigators the semi sped past them at 100 mph just before the wreck, the report says.
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