(Reuters) – Police in Colorado have arrested a Texas truck driver on suspicion of vehicular homicide on Friday after they said he triggered a fiery multi-vehicle crash that killed at least four motorists on a busy interstate highway near Denver.
Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos appears in a Lakewood Police booking photo after he was arrested for suspicion of multiple counts of vehicular homicide following a crash on the I-70 in Lakewood, Colorado, U.S. April 26, 2019. Lakewood Police Department/Handout via REUTERS
The crash turned a stretch of Interstate 70, a major east-west highway, into a raging inferno on Thursday that involved at least 28 vehicles and may have damaged the road surface and an overpass, authorities said.
Lakewood, Colorado police said they arrested Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23, after he lost control of his tractor-trailer truck and started a chain-reaction during the late afternoon rush hour.
“At that time of day we all know that I-70 can be very jammed,” police spokesman Ty Countryman told reporters near the scene. “He can’t stop, doesn’t stop and ends up colliding with several cars. And as a result of that the fire ensues.”
Aguilera-Mederos is expected to appear before a judge at the jail where he is being held in a closed hearing on Saturday afternoon, a spokeswoman for local district attorney said.
The local coroner was still working to identify the four confirmed victims, each of whom had been the sole occupant of their vehicles, Countryman said.
The crash, which also sent six motorists to hospitals, left a pile of debris on the highway that officials were still clearing away on Friday. The condition of those hospitalized was not known.
“The carnage was significant,” Countryman said. “Just unbelievable. There was no indication that Aguilera-Mederos intentionally caused the crash or that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he said.
Investigators were also trying the determine whether the truck’s brakes failed, Countryman said.
The stretch of Interstate 70, which runs through Denver west into the Rocky Mountains, will remain closed in both directions at least until sometime on Saturday, Colorado Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Josh Laipply told reporters.
Parts of the highway will need to be resurfaced and, while a preliminary check showed a bridge over the crash site was undamaged, it will need a full safety inspection, Laipply said.
Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot