99 Pileup Investigation

June 23, 2008 10:11:07 PM PDT
Lee Darling said: "It was like a war zone. I really don't know how they go about it and find out the cause at all. I'm really surprised that they narrowed it down." Crash survivor Darling has come along way from that chain reaction crash that landed him in the hospital back in November. The local car salesman was one of the drivers who nearly lost his life in the mile long pile of twisted metal along a fog shrouded Freeway 99.

In this 400 page report, the Highway Patrol says the first crash was caused by Morris Taylor who authorities say was driving drunk. Chief Deputy District Attorney Greg Anderson said: "Given that they took a blood alcohol that came out to point 24, given the investigation in this case, we made decision we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was involved in driving that vehicle and causing and injury in this case." Taylor faces felony charges. But investigators say "he" is not soley responsible for the 80 some separate impacts that followed in the next 15 minutes.

The other driver facing the most serious charge is Omar Macias. He is accused of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of 5 year old Andy Curiel. Like more than 40 other drivers accused of going too fast in the fog, CHP investigators say Macias' big rig was traveling too fast when he caused the deadly crash. Anderson said: "The predominant issue in this set of collisions and impacts was the unsafe speed with limited visibility." As for the other victim, 26-year old Travis Rogers, investigators say he too was driving too fast and not wearing a seatbelt.

Half a dozen drivers also face prosecution for driving with suspended licenses, or for not having licenses at all. Lee Darling says his heart goes out to the victim's families. But it could've been much worse. Darling said: "God was definitely out there that morning. I saw vehicle engines in compartments and people got out without being injured. There was a lot of lucky people out there that day." Investigators say Caltrans will now spend millions to ad live cams and update boards along the 99 to warn drivers of the dangers ahead, with the hope of avoiding another tragedy like this one.


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