|For Immediate Release
Case # 11CF0766
September 24, 2012
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
MAN SENTENCED FOR KILLING PASSENGER AND INJURING TWO OTHERS IN FIERY CRASH AFTER INHALING NITROUS OXIDE GAS WHILE DRIVING
SANTA ANA – An intoxicated driver was convicted and sentenced today for killing a passenger in his vehicle and injuring two others after inhaling nitrous oxide gas while driving and crashing his car, causing it to catch on fire. Jose Luis Gomez Nava, 22, Santa Ana, pleaded guilty to a court offer to one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated with a sentencing enhancement allegation for causing great bodily injury.
The defendant, who is now in a wheelchair as a result of his injuries sustained in the crash, was sentenced to one year in jail and five years of formal probation. The People objected to the sentence, arguing for a state prison term based on the aggravated circumstances of the case including the defendant’s excessive speed, decision to inhale nitrous gas while driving, and disregard for the lives of his multiple passengers and other drivers on the road.
At approximately 7:40 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2010, Nava was speeding over 80 mph in a 45 mph zone heading southbound on Fairview Street toward MacArthur Boulevard in Santa Ana. Friend Steve Gomez, 15, was riding in the front passenger seat and friends Roman Gomez, 19, and Elvira Orejel, 18, were in the back seat.
Nava was inhaling nitrous oxide gas from balloons while driving. After ingesting the nitrous gas, he dropped his head and released his hands from the steering wheel. Nava lost control of his vehicle, which went up onto the center median and crashed into a pine tree. The impact of the crash and damage to the front end of the vehicle caused the car to catch fire.
Steve Gomez was trapped inside the vehicle and died at the scene due to multiple blunt force trauma injuries. Orejel had to be extricated from the vehicle by Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) officers and was transported to the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Medical Center to be treated for a broken leg. Roman Gomez was able to exit the vehicle on his own and was transported to Western Medical Center to be treated for abrasions to his chest and knee.
Nava was trapped inside his vehicle and had to be extricated by the Santa Ana Fire Department. The defendant was comatose and transported to UCI Medical Center to be treated for severe head and thermal injuries and a broken clavicle.
Nava was in possession of balloons in his pants pocket. A gas cylinder, valve knob for the gas cylinder, and a balloon were located by responding officers on the center median grass near the crash site.