I-70 truck driver who caused fatal 28-vehicle crash in Lakewood goes on trial

The vehicular homicide trial for a Texas trucker who lost his brakes on Interstate 70 while descending from Colorado’s high country and caused a 28-vehicle crash that killed four people will start Friday, more than two-and-a-half years after the fiery wreck.

Truck driver Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, now 25, faces 41 charges in connection with the incident, including both assault and vehicular homicide. He’s facing decades in prison if convicted of all charges.

On April 25, 2019, his semitrailer full of lumber barreled down Interstate 70 at speeds topping 85 mph, swerving and forcing other vehicles off the road before running into standstill traffic under a bridge near Colorado Mills Parkway in Lakewood.

The crash caused multiple explosions and very intense fires as the lumber in Aguilera-Mederos’ rig mixed with spilled gasoline and ignited. The fires brought temperatures on the highway’s surface to more than 2,500 degrees.

Four people were killed — Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24, William Bailey, 67, Doyle Harrison, 61, and Stanley Politano, 69 — and six others injured.

Survivors detailed the horror of seeing a truck barrel into stopped traffic, the terror of burning metal and screaming commuters. Others remembered being pulled from their cars by good Samaritans and carried to safety.

Aguilera-Mederos, who escaped with minor injuries, missed multiple runaway truck ramps on his way down the steep stretch of interstate, video taken by witnesses shows. Prosecutors said Aguilera-Mederos, who was 23 at the time, tried to apply both the truck’s brakes and its emergency brake, with no effect.

He steered the truck to the right shoulder and kept speeding down the interstate until a semitrailer blocked the shoulder ahead. It was then that Aguilera-Mederos turned his truck into stopped traffic, causing the catastrophic 28-vehicle pileup.

His defense attorney, James Colgan, declined to comment Wednesday. In the past, Aguilera-Mederos’ legal counsel has argued the crash was a tragic, unavoidable accident caused by mechanical malfunctions.

A month after the wreck, in May 2019, Aguilera-Mederos offered condolences to the families of the victims in a video on Facebook and thanked people who had donated money to his legal defense.

Jury selection in the trial is expected to last about two days, with opening statements likely to happen Tuesday. The trial is scheduled to last three weeks.

Denver Post reporter Sam Tabachnik contributed to this report. 

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