Truck driver sentenced to more than 100 years in prison following deadly I-70 crash

Photo courtesy: CBS Denver
Photo courtesy: CBS Denver(CBS Denver)
Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 4:15 PM MST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2021 at 9:07 AM MST
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DENVER, Colo. (KKTV) - A trucker who caused a fiery pileup on a Colorado interstate two and a half years ago is looking at the rest of his life and then some in prison.

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, who was 23 at the time of the collision, was sentenced Monday to 110 years.

Aguilera-Mederos was hauling lumber on I-70 just west of Denver in April 2019 when he lost the brakes on his truck and careened down a hill going at least 85 mph. The truck slammed into rush hour traffic at full speed -- traffic that was already slowed due to an earlier crash up ahead -- causing a pileup with more than two dozen vehicles and igniting a fire so intense it melted the roadway and metal off of cars. Four people were killed and many others injured.

Aguilera-Mederos has maintained he never meant to hurt anyone.

“It hurts. I ask God too many times, ‘Why them and not me? Why did I survive that accident?’” he told the courtroom at his sentencing.

Prosecutors pointed out he could have used one of the several runaway truck ramps off I-70, a point sister station CBS Denver reports the jury used as a factor when convicting Aguilera-Mederos on 20+ counts. Charges included vehicular homicide, first-degree assault, attempted first-degree assault, careless driving causing death, vehicular assault, and reckless driving.

The judge acknowledged the young man didn’t intend for the deadly collision to happen but that he was bound by law to sentence him to no less than 110 years. Under Colorado law, that was the mandatory minimum sentence the judge could impose for all of the counts Aguilera-Mederos was convicted on.

“I accept and respect what the defendant has said about his lack of intent to hurt people, but he made a series of terrible decisions, reckless decisions,” the judge said. “... I will state if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence.”

Some of the family members of the dead and maimed said they wanted prison time for Aguilera-Mederos but were working to forgive him for what happened.

“I do believe [the driver] needs to take responsibility for their actions. I know they did not intend for this to happen, but because of your actions it did happen,” said Megan Harrison, who lost her father in the crash.

The judge said the case could be eligible for a review down the road, and if the judge overseeing the review found it appropriate, the sentence could be shortened.

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