A truck driver was convicted Monday of vehicular manslaughter for plowing through a coned-off crash scene on Interstate 10, killing a woman while rescuers were trying to remove her from an overturned car.
Robbie Macias, 55, of Plumas Lake, was convicted of a single misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence for the Feb. 7, 2016, death of 56-year-old Maria Vera.
Authorities said Macias was traveling at an unsafe speed considering the cordoned-off crash site and did not attempt to steer around the victim’s car, which had flipped over in a 7 a.m. solo-vehicle crash on eastbound I-10 west of Jefferson Street.
Macias was charged nearly a year after the crash.
Sentencing was scheduled for May 10.
While Vera’s passengers were able to escape the initial rollover unharmed, Vera was pinned inside the Volkswagen Jetta and unable to move her left leg. As California Highway Patrol officers and Riverside County firefighters were attempting to free her, traffic was diverted through one lane, with cones set up along the freeway blocking all but the fast lane, authorities said.
Macias drove his big rig through the cone pattern at 60 to 65 mph and into the Volkswagen with Vera still trapped inside, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant.
The truck was skidding with smoking tires prior to striking the car, but Macias told investigators he then released the brakes to avoid “spinning out,” according to the declaration. Two CHP officers had to dive over the concrete center divider to avoid being struck by Macias, the document states.
Vera died at the scene. Macias was taken to a hospital with minor injuries and complaints of pain.
Macias’ attorney, Christopher DeSalva, said in 2017 that his client should never have been charged for what he said was “an accident, period.”
“He was driving reasonably. He violated no law. He was not the cause of the accident,” DeSalva said.
The crash also spawned a lawsuit filed by Vera’s family in 2016, who claimed Macias was negligent in failing to slow down, did not properly observe the coned-off zone and failed to operate his truck in accordance with the trucking industry’s safety practices.
Macias was dismissed as a defendant from that lawsuit, but it was expanded to include the CHP, Caltrans, the city of Indio and Riverside County as defendants.