Witnesses sought in crash that killed three in August

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — A single-car accident killed three people in August and five months later, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office is asking the public for help.

District Attorney Pete Weir is looking for people who witnessed the crash or were in the area that night.

Investigators have more information and more questions. But the contact information for some witnesses is not the same.

The accident happened in Conifer on northbound Highway 285 and South Turkey Creek Road between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Aug. 14. Three families are counting on the public’s help.

“This was just a great loss for all of us,” Sonia Barela said.

Her 22-year-old son, Sean Muniz, died in the crash. They were three cousins and in one night, they were gone.

“Just wiped out,” Barela said.

Muniz, Chelsey Gallegos, 25, and Samantha Manzanares-Benavidez, 23, were ejected from the single-car accident.

“This whole thing was preventable. If he obeyed the laws, none of this would have happened. None of this,” said Tony Gallegos, Chelsey’s dad and a Denver police officer.

He’s used to seeing the carnage of car accidents in his job. But nothing could prepare him for the accident that killed his youngest daughter and two of her cousins.

The driver, 22-year-old Alex Granillo-Alvarado, is suspected of speeding up to 107 mph when he lost control of his silver 2008 BMW, crashing down a steep embankment. The crash was not found until 8:30 a.m. the next day.

“He was driving out of control and our children are the ones who suffered,” Gallegos said.

Weir filed three felonies of vehicular homicide against Alvarado about four months after the crash.

“It is extraordinary. The reason for the delay was primarily a result of injuries sustained by Alvarado,” Weir said.

An arrest affidavit shows police tried for months to speak with Alvarado but couldn’t because of the severity of his injuries, and then had difficulty finding him after he transferred to a rehabilitation facility because of medical privacy laws.

“It’s upsetting it took this long. We have lived without our children through these holidays and he, regardless of his condition, his mother got to touch him,” said Dominica Ferguson, Manzanares-Benavidez’s mother.

But for the grieving families, the delay in charges is not the only issue.

“As a father, was my daughter crying out to me and I was not there to help her? She was on that mountain for 10 hours,” Gallegos said.

“They did not find our kid until the next morning and we struggle with that,” Chelsey’s mother, Felicia Gallegos said.

They are a family whose hearts are broken, who lost their beautiful children on one tragic night. Chelsey was a young woman with a zest for life.

“She loved photography. She loved the outdoors, loved her boyfriend, loved her family, her nieces and nephews. She loved her sisters, her brother,” Tony Gallegos said about his daughter.

Muniz was a young man who loved basketball, his brothers and sisters and had dreams of going into the Coast Guard. His mom called him her hero.

“I miss him so much,” Barela said about her oldest child.

And Manzanares-Benavidez had a passion for hip hop, travel, break dancing and her family.

“Being our oldest, she was our strength,” her mom said.

“We don’t know what to do. Our life has changed so dramatically,” said Manzanares-Benavidez’s stepfather, Carlos Ferguson.

They are gone and sorely missed, but their families remain hopeful the man who is responsible pays for what he’s done.

The arrest affidavit also says investigators found evidence Alvarado was drinking. But by the time the hospital tested his blood, 15 hours after the accident, no alcohol was detected.

But a nurse said Alvarado told her he was drinking and driving. He’s out of jail on bond and appears in court Feb. 11.

Anyone who was in the area at the time of the crash is asked to call Jefferson County District Attorney investigator Kevin Sagar at 303-271-6800.

A GoFundMe page for Muniz’s family has been established.

 

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