Truck driver charged in deadly crash looked ‘terrified’ miles before fiery crash, witness says
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was traveling an average speed of 64 mph between Dumont and the crash scene. The speed limit for trucks is 45 mph, a Lakewood agent testified.
LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A commercial truck driver who was involved in the fiery crash in 2019 on eastbound Interstate 70 that killed four men testified Tuesday about what the driver suspected of causing the crash could have done differently.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos faces 41 charges, including vehicular homicide, assault, and attempted assault in connection with the crash that killed four men and injured 10 others. The men killed include:
Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano
Roman Hernandez-Chicon testified in Spanish through a translator in court. He said he’s been a truck driver for about 20 years and was headed back from Chatfield State Park to Commerce City when he was caught in the crash on I-70 near Denver West Parkway on April 25, 2019.
He said he was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic when he felt his truck get hit hard on the right and something went past him “like a bullet” and then he heard explosions. He said he grabbed a fire extinguisher but quickly realized the fire was much too large for it to have any effect.
He said he then went to the area behind the crash and attempted to get drivers behind the crash to turn around, which he said allowed enough space for fire crews to get to the scene and begin fighting the fire.
He suggested in court testimony that Aguilera-Mederos had options besides running into the stopped traffic. He said that he could have used the truck ramp, intentionally driven into the guardrail, or layed the truck down its side, when he knew he was in trouble but before he had reached the stopped traffic.
However, he also noted the maneuver is “very dangerous” and that it might be nearly impossible for a driver who was already panicked to pull off. He also said those options aren’t taught, but are something he’s learned over his years of experience driving big rigs.
Brett Dickerson, who testified earlier in the day, said Aguilera-Mederos seemed “terrified” when he made eye contact with him on the highway near Evergreen prior to the crash. He said he first noticed that Aguilera-Mederos was changing lanes more frequently than he’s typically seen a big truck do.
He testified that he eventually decided to get past the truck, which he described as driving “erratic.” Dickerson said he was going around 80 mph when he went past the truck, but made eye contact with the driver as he went by.
“He seemed like he wasn’t in control of the vehicle at that time,” Dickerson said. “I just saw a very terrified look.”
Aguilera-Mederos said previously that he had lost brakes on the truck prior to the crash.
Lakewood Police Agent Jeromy Rolling testified Tuesday morning about how they calculated the speed of Aguilera-Mederos’ vehicle. In Dumont, there’s a weigh station for trucks, and as trucks equipped with the pre-pass transponder go through it, there’s a timestamp. Rolling said they calculated the average speed of the truck between Dumont and the crash scene by using the time it took to travel that distance between Dumont and the crash site.
They determined he was traveling at an average speed of between 60 and 64 mph, but the speed limit for commercial trucks through there is only 45 mph.
Kathleen Harrison, the widow of Doyle Harrison, also testified Tuesday, along with a diesel mechanic who testified about ins and outs of the truck’s engine and braking systems.
Jared Steele testified about the condition of the truck after the crash, in which the truck sustained extensive fire damage. He was asked specifically about damage to brakes, but could only say that the damage could have been caused by excessive braking, but also by extreme heat from the fire.