Truck driver gets 12 years for vehicular homicide
Summit County correspondent
BRECKENRIDGE ” A semitrailer driver who lost control of his truck near the Eisenhower Tunnel more than three years ago, killing one man and injuring 10 others, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his reckless driving.
Rosauro Saenz showed little emotion as Judge David Lass sentenced him to two six-year sentences for vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault.
“When there’s a death involved, there ought to be a very serious penalty,” said Lass, who called the sentence “more than reasonable.”
Saenz, who is from El Paso, Texas, is currently serving a federal sentence for transporting drugs into Texas from Mexico.
He was arrested in Texas around January 2003, during which time he was out on bond from the Summit County Jail.
The fatal accident occurred on Oct. 13, 2001, while Saenz was westbound on Interstate 70 near milepost 208, three miles from Silverthorne on the descent from the Eisenhower Tunnel.
He lost control of his fully loaded tractor-trailer while he was driving at least 35 mph over the posted limit.
Saenz crashed into a minivan, then continued to barrel down the hill before he smashed into three other vehicles and plowed over a guardrail into a ravine.
The accident killed Dickie Scroggins of Longmont and injured 10 other people.
Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Olden and Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Romeo built their case around the fact that so many people and families were affected by the wreck.
Olden referred to several victims who are still struggling with their injuries and have experienced a loss of income or change in lifestyle since the accident.
She also cited the importance of sending the message that the county takes the state’s speeding laws seriously, and that truck drivers will be held responsible for violating those laws.
Public defender Dale McPhetres asked the judge to consider giving Saenz probation instead of the full sentence.
McPhetres argued that Saenz had no criminal record prior to the accident and that the accident “was not an intentional act and shouldn’t be treated as one.”
McPhetres also noted that Saenz has liver cancer and he should not be given a sentence that could result in his dying in prison.
Romeo disputed Saenz’s illness, saying she’s never seen any diagnosis of cancer.
She also said the 12-year sentence was already reduced from a maximum of 22 years because Saenz’s acts were not intentional.
In the end, Lass sided with the district attorney, saying the accident was avoidable.
“It’s hard to imagine the horror these people felt as they saw Mr. Saenz’s semi speeding out of control and bouncing off cars,” Lass said.
Scroggins’ family asked Lass to consider their heartache while deciding on Saenz’s fate.
Kay Summers, Scroggins’ sister, remained calm as she recalled the night she found out her brother had been killed.
“I still have nightmares imaging how the accident happened,” Summers said.
Summers talked about never being able to go fishing or enjoy the mountains with her brother again. Kay and Robin Summers said the outcome of Monday’s hearing was better than what they expected.
“We can walk out of here and celebrate,” Robin Summers said.
Saenz’s term will be served consecutively with his federal sentence, which ends in 2006.
The district attorney’s office has asked for $5,125 in restitution to pay for Scroggins’ funeral. A hearing will be held later this month to determine how much Saenz will have to pay.
The judge also will determine whether Saenz has the assets to repay $8,200 to the sheriff’s office for medical bills incurred during his stay at the Summit County Jail.
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