Denver, CO – A truck driver convicted of causing a fireball crash that killed four people and resulted in a 28-vehicle pileup in 2019 was sentenced to 110 years in prison last week, sparking outrage among other truck drivers and supporters who argue the incident was a horrific accident undeserving of a life sentence.
Over 4.5 million people have signed a Change.org petition calling for the commutation of 26-year-old Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence or for him to be granted clemency.
“[Aguilera-Mederos] has nothing on his driving record, or on his criminal history,” the petition reads. “[He’s] passed all of the drug and alcohol tests that were given including a chemical test. This accident was not intentional, nor was it a criminal act on the drivers’ part.”
“Rogel has said several times that he wishes he had the courage to crash and take his own life that day, this tragic accident wasn’t done with Intent, it wasnt a criminal act, it was an accident,” his supporters added.
Aguilera-Mederos, then 23, was behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler on April 25, 2019, hauling a load of lumber down Interstate 70 during rush-hour traffic in the Denver suburb of Lakewood when he began losing control of the truck, The Independent reported.
He later told investigators his brakes went out as he was heading downhill with his heavy load of cargo.
According to prosecutors, Aguilera-Mederos passed by multiple runaway truck ramps, which are designed to divert vehicles with braking problems off of the congested roadway and into an area where they can stop safely, The Independent reported.
But he failed to use any of them, prosecutors noted.
Aguilera-Mederos said during the trial that he had never hauled through the mountains before and that he planned to coast down the shoulder of the interstate until the downhill ended, but that he swerved back into traffic when he spotted another semi-truck parked on the shoulder, KMGH reported.
“I thought, ‘Dear God, don’t let anything bad happen,’” he testified.
Aguilera-Mederos was traveling at least 85 miles per hour when he slammed into traffic at the Colorado Mills Parkway overpass, KMGH reported.
Four other semi-trucks and 24 additional vehicles were involved in the pileup, which culminated with a fireball explosion, according to The Independent.
First responders worked for hours to free some of the trapped victims’ bodies.
The horrific collision claimed the lives of 69-year-old Stanley Politano, 24-year-old Miguel Angel Lamas Arrellano, 67-year-old William Bailey, and 61-year-old Doyle Harrison, The Independent reported.
All four men were traveling in separate vehicles when they were killed.
Colorado trucker, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, who barreled down interstate at 85mph and caused huge fireball crash that killed four is sentenced to 110 YEARS in prison – pic.twitter.com/A5r3lbrUH8
— Blanche Victoria (@tammytabby) December 14, 2021
Aguilera-Mederos was convicted of 27 counts in October, including four counts of careless driving causing death, one count of reckless driving, two counts of vehicular assault-reckless, 10 counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree-extreme indifference, six counts of first-degree assault, and four counts of vehicular homicide, The Independent reported.
He begged for leniency during his sentencing hearing on Dec. 13, tearfully expressing his remorse for those he killed and injured.
“I know that it has been hard and heartbreaking for everyone involved in this tragedy,” he said. “Your Honor, I don’t know why I’m alive. Like for what? I ask God too many times why them and not me? Why did I survive that accident?”
The sobbing defendant told the court he is “sorry” for the trauma he created and that his is “not a criminal,” The Independent reported.
The situation was a “terrible accident,” Aguilera-Mederos said.
“I want to say sorry. Sorry for the loss, for the people injured. I know they have trauma, I know, I feel that,” he said. “But please, don’t be angry with me… I was working hard for a better future for my family.”
“I am not a criminal,” he added, according to FOX News. “I am not a murderer. I am not a killer. When I look at my charges, we are talking about a murderer, which is not me. I have never thought about hurting anybody in my entire life.”
Aguilera-Mederos was sentenced to a mandatory 110 years in prison on Dec. 13, The Independent reported.
State law requires each count be served consecutively.
— Joseph Morris (@JosephMorrisYT) December 16, 2021
Colorado District Court Judge Bruce Jones noted that his hands were tied with regards to the mandatory sentence, The Independent reported.
“If I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence,” Jones said during the sentencing hearing.
He also added that Aguilera-Mederos “made a series of terrible decisions…reckless decisions,” according to KCNC.
“In all the victim impact statements I read, I did not glean from them someone saying he should be in prison for the rest of his life and he should never, ever get out — far from it,” Jones said, according to The Washington Post. “There was forgiveness reflected in those statements, but also a desire that he be punished and served time in prison, and I share those sentiments.”
The judge said he has “no desire” to see Aguilera-Mederos “in prison for the rest of his life and away from his wife and son.”
“I do not know how this will ultimately resolve,” Jones added.
A multitude of truck drivers have vowed they will no longer haul through or into Colorado in the wake of Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence, FOX News reported.
Truckers aren’t entering Colorado in protest of Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos getting a 110 year sentence after his breaks failed and his truck killed 4 people, a tragedy the company should be liable for. I think we’re about to see the power of truckers.
— Read Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks (@JoshuaPotash) December 18, 2021
United Latin American Citizens President Domingo Garcia said his organization has already fired off a letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis to plead for reduced sentencing or a pardon.
Garcia described the sentence as “an egregious miscarriage of justice,” FOX News reported.
“He got 110 years in prison on his first offense when it was clearly an accident,” Garcia declared. “It could happen to anybody. Your brakes go out. It was not intentional. It’s not something that he was trying to do.”
A judge in Jefferson County sentenced Rogel Aguilera-Mederos to 110 years in prison Monday for the crash that killed four people and injured several more. Aguilera-Mederos was the driver of an out-of-control semi that crashed into stopped traffic on Interstate 70 in 2019. pic.twitter.com/DDnsySBFiF
— David Bana (@tha_nowhere_man) December 16, 2021
Polis said his office reviews every clemency application they receive, but that nothing pertaining to Aguilera-Mederos had been submitted as of Dec. 16, FOX News reported.
“We review all clemency applications, we’ve yet to receive one from the individual but every clemency application that we receive, we review and make a determination,” the governor noted.
The Change.org petition further claims the company Aguilera-Mederos was working for at the time of the deadly crash “failed to follow” federal laws pertaining to truck-driving.
“No, we are not trying to make it seem any less of a tragic accident that it is because yes, lives were lost. We are trying to hold the person who needs to be held responsible, responsible,” the petition reads.