SAN DIEGO (AP) — A U.S. Navy man — whose pickup truck hurtled off a San Diego bridge and crashed into a festival 60 feet below, killing four people and injuring nine — will be arraigned later this week on DUI and vehicular manslaughter charges, authorities said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, community members and at least one California lawmaker are calling for the state to make the bridge safer, including erecting guardrails.
Richard Anthony Sepolio is expected to be arraigned at a hospital Wednesday on four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, a felony DUI causing injury or death, and three counts of gross bodily injuries in a DUI crash, California Highway Patrol Capt. Jim Nellis told reporters at a news conference in Chicano Park.
Nellis stood near scores of candles and flowers left at the crash site three days after vendors were trapped under the GMC pickup, which blew through a concrete retaining wall off the Coronado bridge connecting the Navy town of Coronado across the bay from San Diego.
Saturday’s crash happened as a crowd gathered for La Raza Run, a motorcycle ride that begins in downtown Los Angeles and ends with a celebration at the historic park, known for its bright colored murals painted on the bridge’s columns in honor of one of the oldest Mexican-American neighborhoods in the United States.
The truck crashed into a booth steps away from a stage where a rockabilly band was playing.
Sepolio was recovering from an injured back and other injuries at a hospital. The 25-year-old Navy aviation electronics technician, who enlisted in 2014, was assigned to Helicopter Combat Squadron 6 at the base in Coronado.
Community members gathered Tuesday to call for a railing for the bridge. State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, joined them, vowing to make the bridge’s safety a top priority.
He said a number of cities have added netting and taken other measures to prevent people from jumping off bridges. He did not give specifics, but he said he will push for the issue to be studied and the appropriate action to be taken.
Tomasa “Tommie” Camarillo, who has worked for the preservation of the park for 46 years, said a guardrail or other barrier needs to be erected along the bridge. She said this is not the first time things have flown off the bridge and that she has seen everything from motorcycles to a fender come crashing down near where people were gathered and children were playing.
The issue is becoming increasingly important as the area has developed in recent years with new apartment complexes, shopping centers and more activities at the park, which all are near the bridge.
Pablo Trevino, publisher of Vatos y Viclas, a motorcycle riders’ magazine that helped organize the Saturday event, said at first people froze, wondering if there had been a bomb or explosion. Then they jumped into action to lift the truck off the victims.
“We’ve been putting this event together for eight years and never imagined something like this could happen,” he said, adding that future events would be dedicated to those who died.
The San Diego County Medical Examiner identified the people killed as Cruz Elias Contreras, 52, and Annamarie Contreras, 50, of Chandler, Arizona; and Andre Christopher Banks, 49, and Francine Denise Jimenez, 46, both from Hacienda Heights, a suburb east of Los Angeles.
The suspect’s mother, Blanca Sepolio, said family members didn’t wish to comment on the crash when reached by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
When he was 19 years old, Sepolio was arrested in Texas on suspicion of possessing or delivering drug paraphernalia. He was jailed on $600 bail. It’s unclear how the case was resolved.
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