Crash widow says Fresno police officer's death could've been prevented

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The CHP shut down part of Highway 180 Wednesday afternoon while they collected new evidence in the investigation into the wrong-way crash that killed a Fresno police officer and the wrong-way driver.

Action News has investigated the driver's deadly history and a couple of previous problems that might've prevented Monday's incident.

"All this could've been prevented if they would've taken care of it when my husband passed away," said Katrina Sanchez.

Phia Vang's death is a tragedy no matter how you look at it, but from the viewpoint of a woman whose husband was killed in a crash with the same driver just five months earlier, it was also preventable.

Less than six months before Cameron Pryor smashed into Vang's pickup truck and killed them both, CHP investigators found Pryor at fault for another deadly crash.

He pulled away from a stop sign and into the path of Candelario Sanchez's motorcycle.

So when Katrina Sanchez found out who was responsible for Monday's deaths, she broke down.

RELATED: 'Just tears started rolling out:' Son of officer killed in wrong-way crash remembers his dad

"I was in the middle of my room and fell to the floor, and it felt all new again," she said.

The DA's office decided not to file a case against Pryor, in part because Sanchez was speeding. Investigators said he was going 70 in a 65 zone, but some witnesses said it might've been faster.

The CHP recommended misdemeanor manslaughter charges in that case, and they arrested him for DUI in a separate case a few days later.

RELATED: Driver in wrong-way crash that killed Fresno police officer had prior DUI conviction

The DA's office says a toxicology screen -- including testing for opioids -- came back negative, so again, they didn't file a case.

Legal analyst Tony Capozzi says if they had charged him, it might've kept Pryor from being behind the wheel Monday.

"This is a tragedy that could've been avoided if the right things would've happened," he said. "Clearly, if he was prosecuted back in December this may not have happened at all, most likely wouldn't have happened. But there are only certain things a prosecutor can do."

Pryor voluntarily had an ignition interlock device installed on his truck in September but had it removed less than 24 hours before he crashed into Vang.

24 hours after that, the sheriff's Eagle One recorded a procession as police escorted Vang from the coroner's office to a funeral home.

For Katrina Sanchez, the flag-draped casket is too familiar and too avoidable.

"This could've prevented Vang's family from having to deal with this and saved his own life," Katrina Sanchez said.

Fresno police tell us they don't have plans for officer Vang's funeral yet.
Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.