|For Immediate Release
Case # 07SM03127
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
SPEEDING TRUCK DRIVER CONVICTED OF KILLING THREE YOUNG CHILDREN AFTER CRASHING
INTO STOPPED FAMILY MINIVAN ON FREEWAY
NEWPORT BEACH – The driver of a truck that struck and killed three young children was convicted today of vehicular manslaughter for his negligent driving behavior that led to the three deaths. Jorge Miguel Romero, 38, Apple Valley, pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter involving criminal negligence. The charges carry a maximum sentence of three years in jail. Romero is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14, 2008, at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. The time and Department are to be determined.
At approximately 1:00 p.m. on May 4, 2007, Lori Coble was driving in the family Chrysler minivan with her three children, 5-year-old Kyle, 4-year-old Emma, and 2-year-old Katie, all in child safety seats in the back of the van. The children’s grandmother was riding in the front passenger seat. The family was returning home from a day at Irvine Spectrum, where they had gone to ride the Ferris wheel for Kyle’s birthday, which had been one day earlier. The family was headed south on the 5 freeway and came to a stop behind traffic in the exit lane at Oso Parkway. Romero came up behind the van at a speed of approximately 60 to 70 miles per hour in a semi-truck tractor-trailer carrying electronics weighing in excess of 40,000 pounds. He was being inattentive and crashed into the minivan because he hit his brakes too late to stop. He was driving at an unsafe speed for the traffic conditions and did not maintain an appropriate distance from the stopped traffic ahead of him.
Romero negligently crashed his truck into the back of the stopped minivan and drove through the back seat where the Coble children were sitting. Lori Coble and the children’s grandmother sustained injuries and were transported to the hospital. All three children were killed.
The law describing the distinction between misdemeanor and felony manslaughter:
Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter may be charged when there is “ordinary negligence” or the failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to one’s self or another. A person is negligent if he or she does or fails to do something that a reasonable careful person would not do in the same situation.
Felony vehicular manslaughter may be charged when there is “gross negligence” which involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. Gross Negligence would require a person to act in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury and a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk. The person’s action must be so different from how an ordinary careful person would act in the same situation that his or her act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of the act.
The California Highway Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant District Attorney Jaime Coulter is prosecuting this case.