Saturday 24 March 2018

US navy man faces charges after four die in truck plunge

Police stand near the truck in San Diego (Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)
Police stand near the truck in San Diego (Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

A member of the US Navy is facing drink-driving and manslaughter charges after the pickup truck he was driving plunged off a San Diego bridge, killing four people and injuring nine others at a festival below.

Richard Anthony Sepolio, 25, who was stationed at the naval base on Coronado Island across the bay from San Diego, was alone in the truck on Saturday afternoon when it lost control and fell 60ft onto a vendor's booth at Chicano Park.

Sepolio remains in hospital with serious injuries.

After the crash, California Highway Patrol officer Jake Sanchez said: "It's horrible. It's horrific. We had innocent people down here having a good time, and now they're gone."

The four victims were: 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.

Witnesses had said four people in the booth were crushed by the truck.

Eight people on the ground were injured. One suffered major trauma, while seven others had minor to moderate injuries, authorities said.

Witnesses said the GMC pickup truck with Texas licence plates landed on a vendor's booth set up for La Raza Run, a motorcycle ride that begins in Los Angeles and ends with a celebration at the park.

The crash took place steps away from a stage where a rockabilly band was playing.

On Sunday, mourners gathered at the park to lay flowers and candles and say prayers for the victims.

Tina Camarillo told the San Diego Union-Tribune she and her daughter were in a booth next to the one that was hit.

She said: "To see such tragedy in an instant . . .

"(The truck) fell and all I saw was darkness, the glass blew, the canopy fell on my head. My daughter was running to get my mom. It was horrible."

Iris Jimenez, 29, told the newspaper she got out of the way just in time.

"I saw the truck coming at me, and if I hadn't run, I'd be dead," Ms Jimenez told the newspaper.

Her companion, Pedro Sanchez, was one of several men who rushed to lift the pickup off the victims.

Photos from the scene show the truck's front end crumpled and its bonnet popped open.

The park is beneath the bridge in a predominantly Hispanic neighbourhood in central San Diego.


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