Trucker in Colorado pileup that killed 4 pleads not guilty

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GOLDEN |  A truck driver accused of causing a fiery pileup that killed four people and seriously injured several others on a Colorado interstate pleaded not guilty Thursday to vehicular homicide and other charges.

Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 24, of Houston, appeared in court in Jefferson County to answer to charges stemming from the April 25 crash on Interstate 70 west of Denver, KDVR-TV reported.

He has said the brakes on his semitrailer failed before he plowed into vehicles that had slowed for another wreck. But prosecutors say he tried to flee the scene and showed “extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

Aguilera-Mederos, who is set to go to trial May 1, faces 41 charges, including vehicular homicide, assault and attempted assault.

The truck was going at least 85 mph (137 kph) on a part of Interstate 70 where commercial vehicles are limited to 45 mph (72 kph), according to investigators. The initial impact caused a 28-vehicle chain-reaction wreck that ruptured gas tanks, causing flames that consumed several vehicles and melted parts of the highway just after it descends from mountains.

The semitrailer was destroyed, making a mechanical inspection impossible.

Just before the crash, police say the truck traveled past a ramp on the side of the interstate that is designed to safely stop trucks and other vehicles that have lost their brakes.

The speeding truck had a “free and unobstructed path” to the ramp, but the driver instead swerved away from it, police said.

Aguilera-Mederos’ attorney, Rob Corry, hinted Thursday that he is upset prosecutors have not offered a plea deal, and he filed a motion seeking the right to speak to the media again. The judge asked both sides in September to limit pre-trial media attention.

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Information from: KDVR-TV, http://www.kdvr.com