JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — The semitrailer driver suspected of causing the deadly crash and fire on Interstate 70 in Lakewood Thursday appeared before a judge Saturday afternoon.
Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23, faces four counts of vehicular homicide, one for each person who was killed Thursday. He also faces two counts of vehicular assault. A judge advised him of his rights and probable cause for arrest at the Jefferson County Jail about 1 p.m. Saturday.
Aguilera-Mederos’ bail was set at $400,000.
Charges are expected to be formally filed during Aguilera-Mederos’ next court appearance on May 3.
Aguilera-Mederos, from Houston, was born in Cuba and is living in the U.S. legally with a green card.
Six people were taken to the hospital because of the crash, police said, but there were no updates on their conditions.
Aguilera-Mederos was injured in the crash, but not severely.
The crash happened in the eastbound lanes of the interstate near Denver West Colorado Mills Parkway in Lakewood just before 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Both directions of the interstate were closed and had reopened by about 8:15 p.m. Friday.
According to an arrest affidavit, Aguilera-Mederos gave police a statement while in the hospital. He said his brakes failed and he saw his speedometer hit 85 mph. He maneuvered to the right shoulder to avoid stopped traffic. However, when he reached the Denver West overpass, there was a truck stopped on the shoulder, so he chose to swerve back into traffic.
“Rogel said he thought he was going to die so he closed his eyes before hitting the stopped traffic,” the affidavit states.
Investigators reviewed a number of videos that appeared to show Aguilera-Mederos out of control, including one filmed by Pedro Olvera. That video appears to show Aguilera-Mederos passing a runaway truck ramp and signs warning truckers about steep grades as the interstate winds into the Denver area.
The affidavit also stated that the four people killed died as a result of the fire while still trapped in their vehicles.
Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney, Robert Corry, said his client has driven through mountainous regions in Colorado and Wyoming before. Corry also said that Aguilera-Mederos has a Texas commercial driver’s license, but Corry would not say how long his client has been a truck driver.
Authorities previously said there is no indication the crash was intentional and they do not believe drugs or alcohol were a factor.