Here’s a tidbit from City News Service about an Apple Valley truck driver who was charged with the deaths of three siblings stemming from a traffic collision in May 2007 on the 5 Freeway in Mission Viejo. Jorge Miguel Ramos faced three counts of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. Today, he pleaded no contest to the charges.
NEWPORT BEACH (CNS) – A trucker whose big rig slammed into the back of a minivan stopped in freeway traffic, killing three young siblings from Ladera Ranch, pleaded no contest today to three counts of vehicular manslaughter.
Jorge Miguel Romero, 38, of Apple Valley, entered his plea after preparation of a “pre-plea” report by the Probation Department that recommended he receive no more than a year in jail, said Farrah Emami of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Here’s a story from the Orange County Register, which was following the case:
Aug. 30, 2007
D.A. files charges in fatal crash
Author: ERIKA I. RITCHIE
The Orange County Register
The driver of a big-rig that slammed into the back of a family’s minivan in May, killing three young Ladera Ranch siblings, was charged Wednesday by the Orange County district attorney, but the children’s parents said he was not the sole cause of the crash.
“We strongly feel there are more responsible parties than just the driver,” said Lori Coble on Wednesday in response to charges filed against Jorge Miguel Romero by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Romero, 37, of Apple Valley is being charged with three misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter involving criminal negligence. He faces a maximum sentence of three years if convicted. Romero is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 13 at Harbor Justice Center in Laguna Niguel and is expected to turn himself in then.
Felony manslaughter charges would have carried a heavier sentence.
Felony vehicular manslaughter may be charged where there is “gross negligence,” which involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention or mistaken judgment. The charge can lead to state prison.
“The evidence that requires gross negligence would have to show something so much different that what a prudent person would do,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office. “We had stopped traffic, inattention, and he was traveling at 60 to 70 miles per hour – normal speed on a freeway but unsafe for those specific conditions. There is no charge that will bring the Coble children back. No charge justifies what they’re going through. We’re bound by the law and what the law requires.”
“We trust what the D.A. is doing,” Lori Coble said.
The Coble children – Kyle, 5, Emma, 4, and Katie, 2, – died after a big rig slammed into the back of the family’s Chrysler minivan May 4 on I-5 in Mission Viejo. The minivan was stopped in the slow lane of traffic. Lori Coble, 30, who was driving the minivan, and her mother, Cynthia Maestri, 60, were injured.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Romero came up behind the van at approximately 60 mph to 70 mph, was inattentive and hit his brakes too late to stop before striking the minivan. He allegedly failed to maintain a proper distance from the traffic stopped ahead of him.
Coble attorney Jeoffrey Robinson said the charges by the district attorney were appropriate.
“This is a case of simple negligence resulting in the death of three people,” Robinson said. “If it were gross negligence or wanton disregard, the district attorney would have filed a felony. The facts show that the driver was guilty of some inattention, that in this case proved tragic. It is well known even reasonable drivers engage in inattention. When you couple an inattentive big-rig driver with an unsafe road condition, you have a recipe for disaster.”
Drivers have complained about the three-mile stretch between Crown Valley Parkway and La Paz Road where the accident occurred, saying traffic often backs up near the Oso Parkway exit.
Chris and Lori Coble say nothing will bring their children back but that they hope to help prevent such an accident from happening to another family.
“Our hope is that he never drives a truck again, and we hope get the accident-prone Oso exit fixed whatever way possible,” Chris Coble said.
Court records show Romero had been cited in 2002 and 2006 for speeding in a tractor-trailer. He was also ticketed for driving without his lights on in 2006 and in 1997 for driving with a suspended license.
Bill Furlow, spokesman for K.W. Express, a Carson-based company that owned the truck Romero was driving, said Romero, who started driving for the trucking company in July 2006, was suspended from the company immediately after the crash. Romero could not be reached for comment.
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