WELD COUNTY, Colo. — Five months after a truck crash killed five of their loved ones, a Wyoming family is still waiting to find out if charges will be filed against the driver, who federal records say did not have a valid commercial driver's license.
A 9NEWS investigation found federal reports show the California-based trucking company, Caminantes Trucking, has a history of allowing drivers to get behind the wheel without a proper CDL.
Halie Everts, her fiancé Aaron Godinez, their 3-month-old daughter Tessleigh Godinez, and Aaron's parents Emiliano Godines and Christina Godines were killed in the June 13 crash on Interstate 25 in Weld County.
That afternoon, drivers slowed down for a backup. The driver of one truck didn't stop -- and slammed into the 2015 Ford Edge that was carrying the family back to their home in Gillette, Wyoming after a trip to Denver.
Halie’s mom, Desiree Everts, has spent her whole life in Gillette. Now, around every corner, she finds memories of her daughter.
“I think about that all the time,” Desiree said, visiting the cemetery where a plaque honors Halie, Aaron and Tessleigh. “Why did this happen to my family, to them? My grandbaby was only 3 months old. It’s hard. It hurts.”
CSP investigators believe the truck slammed into the family’s car at 75 miles an hour. The crash report obtained from CSP shows their car was traveling five miles an hour at the time, as they had slowed down for stopped traffic ahead.
Two other cars were also hit in the crash. One of those drivers sustained minor injuries.
The CSP report indicates the truck’s driver was distracted. Lawyers for the Godinez family told 9NEWS that investigators are waiting to see if the driver’s phone records show whether he was on his phone.
The CSP report also shows the truck's brakes were "defective" or "out of adjustment."
Federal records show the driver didn't have a valid commercial driver's license.
"I see a lot of the worst truck wrecks across the country," Michael Leizerman, a Partner at The Law Firm for Truck Safety and cofounder of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys, said. "It’s rare to see a case where the driver doesn’t have a commercial driver’s license. That should never happen."
Yet, it did -- multiple times.
About three months before, an officer in Platteville stopped the same truck. It had a different driver with the same story -- no CDL. In California in July, another Caminantes Trucking truck was stopped. The driver of that truck also didn’t have a CDL, according to a report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
“To have one driver with a company this size without a commercial driver’s license should never happen. To have it happen three times is inexcusable,” Leizerman said.
Caminantes’ trucks have been involved in two fatal crashes in the past two years, federal records show. The Weld County crash killed five, and one person was killed in a crash in California in April 2021.
But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said those two crashes aren’t enough to shut down the company and its 46 trucks. After the Weld County crash, the agency did fine the company $21,460.
9NEWS reached out multiple times with phone calls, text messages and emails to the owners of the company and lawyers who employees say represent the company. No one returned our messages with a comment.
The truck was carrying mail on the day of the Weld County crash. The United States Postal Service told 9NEWS it is still contracting with Caminantes to carry mail.
“Yes, they currently do have contractual relationships with us,” a USPS spokesperson said in an email.
“We regularly review safety performance of contracted companies and their adherence to USPS policies in relation to our continued relationships,” USPS said in a statement.
The Weld County District Attorney’s office tells 9NEWS Colorado State Patrol has not yet turned the case over to them for them to review any potential charges. Once the information is given to the DA's office, it could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks before a decision is made on whether to pursue charges.
Last month, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Emiliano and Christina's two surviving children, who were 18 and 22 years old when their parents died. The lawsuit names the truck driver; Caminantes Trucking and its owner; sub-carrier Lucky 22 and others as defendants.
Now, Desiree and her family wait to find out if the 26-year-old truck driver will face any charges.
“I want him behind bars,” Desiree said. “He shouldn’t be out living his life when our babies are gone. Our family members are gone.”
“And the hardest part about it all is that it could have been preventable,” she said. “And it shouldn’t have happened. They should be enjoying their lives right now. They were way too young.”
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