San Diego

U.S. Navy Service Member Was Drunk, Speeding Before Fatal Bridge Crash: DA

Saturday afternoon, a pickup truck landed on a crowd at Chicano Park, killing at least 4 people and injuring several others in the suspected DUI crash

The U.S. Navy Service Member accused in the fatal Coronado Bridge crash Saturday was allegedly driving drunk and speeding when his car plunged 60 feet off the Coronado Bridge ramp and onto a crowd below, killing four, according to the District Attorney's office.

Richard Anthony Sepolio, 24, an active duty service member stationed in Coronado, pleaded not guilty to multiple charges related to the fatal crash, including four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury or death, and four different great bodily injury allegations.

However, after his hospital arraignment Wednesday, Sepolio's attorney Paul Pfingst said he had yet to receive paperwork indicating his client was under the influence of alcohol to support the related charges. 

"We are confident that my client was not under the influence at the time of this tragedy," he said. "This tragedy in large part is a result of a conceitedly dangerous situation that has been in existence at that bridge since it was built."

Following the arraignment, Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright detailed what lead up to the fatal crash. 

Bright said Sepolio took a ride sharing service to a restaurant with a friend earlier that Saturday, where the pair had a bottle of wine and a couple cocktails. They used a ride sharing service to take them back to a friend's home, which is where Sepolio got in his truck and headed home to Coronado, Bright said. 

At the time of the crash, Pfingst said, his client was cut off on the road and driven into the side of the bridge, where his car was forced off the ramp. He alleged the retainers on the bridge, meant to prevent accidents at merge points, were the reason the crash happened. 

"My client was cut off when he was on the roadway. He was driven into the side of the bridge and that caused the car to go over the bridge. It was not a result of alcohol. It was not a result of impairment," he said.

Investigators told the DA's office that at the time of the crash, Sepolio was speeding to pass a car and was driving approximately 80 miles per hour when he lost control of his car and spun over the right hand side of the bridge. The recommended speed at that juncture was 45 miles an hour, Bright said. 

Sepolio suffered a broken hand, broken in two places, broken ribs, fractured vertebrae and additional injuries, Pfingst said.

Pfingst said his client is a service member aspiring to be a Navy SEAL and had just qualified to begin the training program.

"He's a patriotic young man with no prior criminal record who was out and was coming back to the base," he said.

When authorities measured Sepolio's blood-alcohol content an hour after the crash in the hospital, he had a 0.08 BAC -- the legal driving limit in California, Bright said. Officials estimate at the time of the crash, his blood-alcohol was at 0.08 or 0.09, according to Bright. 

Four people were killed when the car crashed onto a crowd at Chicano Park, and seven injured. 

Sepolio is facing a maximum sentence of 23 years and eight months in prison. 

"For just the people that have died, they're looking at 2 years for each additional victim so for the 4 people that are killed that max amount of time a judge can impose is 16 years," Bright said.

That is 16 years for those killed and then an additional seven years for those injured.

He is being held on $2 million bail. 

That is 16 years for those killed and then an additional seven years for those injured.

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