The semi-trailer that slammed into at least 15 cars on the Mexico City-Toluca highway last Wednesday and killed 10 people was traveling at 166 kilometers per hour, public prosecutors said Saturday.
The maximum permitted speed on the highway is 80 kilometers per hour.
The 41-year-old driver, who was uninjured in the crash, faced a preliminary hearing Saturday in a Mexico City court, where prosecutors from the capital’s Attorney General’s office (PGJ) formally accused her of culpable homicide and inflicting bodily harm.
The speed at which she was traveling was determined by an expert investigation, they said.
In addition to the 10 deaths, 16 people were hospitalized and 25 to 30 people were treated for minor injuries at the scene. One hospitalized woman remained in a coma over the weekend.
The accused, identified as Ana N., appeared at the hearing dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt alongside her lawyers, the newspaper El Universal reported.
Family members of eight of the 10 people who lost their lives were also present with their own legal representation.
During a seven-hour hearing, the presiding judge heard from witnesses of the accident, including some who were directly involved, that the driver had not sounded her horn or used her lights to indicate that she was having problems stopping the truck.
Ana N. reserved her right not to make a statement but told authorities after the accident that her brakes had failed, causing her to completely lose control of the trailer that was transporting a 24-tonne load.
However, an investigation determined that the brakes were in working order.
Mexico City police chief Raymundo Collins suggested that the driver may have been unable to reach the brakes due to her height, telling reporters that “it caught my attention that the person [driving] . . . is a woman of short stature.”
At the conclusion of Saturday’s hearing, Judge María Cristina Torres Sánchez ordered Ana N. to stand trial on the charges filed against her.
The investigation is not expected to be completed until May 2019, meaning that the accused will remain in preventative custody for at least the next six months.
A blood test to determine if she had consumed alcohol or drugs prior to the accident was negative.
Still, Ana N. could face up to 50 years’ imprisonment for the culpable homicide of 10 people as well as additional terms for inflicting bodily harm and causing material damage.
However, Mexico City Attorney General Edmundo Garrido said prior to the hearing that a compensation agreement could be reached that would allow the driver to avoid jail time.
The driver’s employer, Transportes Easo, said in a statement that it “deeply regrets the death of several people as a consequence of the accident in which one of its vehicles was involved” and that it will fully cooperate with authorities in their investigation.
The wife of one of the nine men who were killed in the accident told the newspaper El Universal that representatives of the company had not approached the victims’ families to offer support as promised.
“A lot of families have been left helpless. What we want is justice and for [the company] not to shirk responsibility. They have to compensate us, there are women who have been left on their own with babies . . .” Verónica Martínez said.
Source: El Universal (sp)