The suspect who caused the fiery crash on a Colorado highway that involved 28 vehicles and left four people dead has been identified.
Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, a 23-year-old from Texas, has been charged with four counts of vehicular homicide and will make his first appearance in Jefferson County court on Saturday, according to Ty Countryman with the Lakewood Police Department.
The crash happened around 4:50 p.m. on Interstate 70 near Denver when a semi-truck carrying lumber crashed, causing the massive pileup involving at least four semis and 24 cars.
Cops said rush hour traffic was at a standstill when Aguilera-Mederos lost control of the semi while coming down a hill and barreled into several cars that were sitting still.
“The carnage was significant,” Countryman said. “Just unbelievable.”
The Lakewood Police Department arrested Aguilera-Mederos and charged him with vehicular homicide based on witness interviews and evidence collected overnight, Countryman said.
Police don’t believe drugs or alcohol had anything to do with the crash. Aguilera-Mederos is cooperating with police and is currently being held at the Jefferson County Jail. Countryman said he “absolutely” may face more charges.
The spot where the crash happened is a known trouble area for truckers, but Countryman said it’s up to drivers to keep control of their vehicle.
“I think it’s a concern for any truck coming down that hill. As far as how their driving goes, that’s on the truckers and their equipment,” Countryman said. “And obviously every case is different there. I know in the past there have been truck fires or brake fires, but it’s not like every truck has these issues.”
Officials said investigators were able to begin combing through the devastation around 10 p.m. Thursday and worked through Friday to add up the total number of fatalities. Initial estimates of 15 vehicles involved and one fatality soared after daylight when officials were able to do a more thorough count.
Six people were taken to local hospitals with injuries and police did not know their current condition as of Friday morning. Lakewood police are still working with the coroner’s office to identify the bodies of the dead, which Countryman said will be “a long process.”
The highway isn’t expected to reopen until at least Saturday. After the police have completed their initial investigation at the site – where bodies still remained in vehicles on Friday morning – the Colorado Department of Transportation will be able to evaluate the condition of the bridge and pavement at the crash site and address any problems.
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