High Profile Trial of Truck Driver Accused of Six Vehicular Manslaughter Charges Gets Underway
According to the criminal complaint, truck driver Richard Lopez had been driving for more than 15 hours and had not taken his mandatory 10-hour rest break at the time the fatal accident took place.
Los Angeles, California – The jury trial of truck driver Richard Lopez, 70, of Walnut, California, got underway yesterday and is expected to continue today. Lopez is charged with six misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter in connection with the deaths of two women and four children killed in a 2016 accident. You may remember this high-profile accident because it filled the newspapers, TV broadcasts and internet news outlets around the world at the time.
On June 28, 2016, Connie Wu Li, 33, Flora Kuang, 33, Jayden Li, 5, Lucas Li, 3, Sky Ng, 4, and Venus Ng, 2, were just heading off on their two-family vacation when tragedy struck. They were in a van traveling southbound on Interstate 5 when they were involved in a non-injury crash with a BMW. The van, now partially blocking part of the roadway, was then struck from the rear by the tractor-trailer Lopez was driving causing it to immediately erupt into flames and plunge down an embankment. California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers were on their way to the scene of the earlier accident at the time of the fiery crash with the semi, authorities said.
“When we arrived on scene, we saw the van starting to catch fire. We saw the husbands come running up to us, told us their families were in the vehicle still,” Officer Dan Williams told Los Angeles television station KABC. “My partner went and tried to get in through the van door,” Williams said. “The flames came at him, he had to back out. I grabbed the fire extinguisher, I tried to extinguish the flames, but the van burst into flames very, very quickly and we were unable to assist in getting anybody out of the van.”
CHP officers also told reporters soon afterward that they had to restrain the fathers from the blaze because it was too dangerous to try to save the women and children. “We just held them. That’s all we could do,” CHP Officer Jeff Burdock told reporters. Williams said, “It was very horrific seeing them trying to get their families out, us trying to help get their families out.”
According to the criminal complaint, Lopez had been driving for more than 15 hours and had not taken his mandatory 10-hour rest break under the hours of service regulations. If convicted, Lopez faces up to six years in jail. It remains unclear what type of defense Lopez and his team will argue in court.
Transportation Nation Network will continue to follow this story for you.