INDIO, Calif. - A lawyer for a trucker accused of plowing through a coned-off crash scene on Interstate 10, killing a woman who rescuers were trying to remove from her overturned car, said today that his client should never have been charged with vehicular manslaughter for what was essentially an accident.
Robbie Macias, 53, of Plumas Lake, was charged with a misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence about one year after the crash that killed 56-year-old Maria Vera on the eastbound I-10, west of Jefferson Street.
Authorities allege that Macias was traveling at unsafe speeds considering the cordoned-off crash site and did not attempt to steer around Vera's car on Feb. 7, 2016.
Defense attorney Christopher DeSalva disagreed, and said his client should never have been charged for what he said was ``an accident, period.''
"He was driving reasonably. He violated no law. He was not the cause of the accident,'' DeSalva told reporters at the Larson Justice Center, after Macias' arraignment was rescheduled to May 17.
Vera was involved in a 7 a.m. solo crash that left her Volkswagen Jetta overturned. Her passengers were able to escape, but Vera was pinned inside the car and unable to move her left leg, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant.
As California Highway Patrol officers and Riverside County firefighters were attempting to remove Vera from the car, traffic was diverted through one lane, with cones set up along the freeway blocking all but the fast lane.
Macias allegedly drove his big rig through the cone pattern at 60 to 65 miles per hour and into the Volkswagen with Vera still trapped inside. The truck was skidding with smoking tires prior to striking the car, but Macias told investigators he then released the brakes to avoid "spinning out,'' according to the declaration.
Two CHP officers had to dive over the concrete center divider "headfirst'' in order to avoid being struck by Macias, the declaration alleges.
Vera died at the scene. Macias was taken to a hospital with minor injuries and complaints of pain, but was not arrested in connection with the crash.
Criminal charges were not filed against Macias until Feb. 2, 2017. He remains free on his own recognizance.
The crash also spawned a lawsuit filed by Vera's family, who claim that Macias was negligent in failing to slow down, did not properly observe the coned-off zone and failed to operate his truck in accordance with the trucking industry's safety practices.
The lawsuit, filed last April, was recently expanded to include CHP, Caltrans, the city of Indio and Riverside County as defendants.