Police: Fatal SDG&E Crash Is a Case of Distracted Driving

On Jan. 22, 2014, an SDG&E employee driving a work utility truck fatally hit a mother and two young girls as they walked to school in Shelltown

An accident involving a San Diego Gas & Electric truck that fatally hit a mother and injured two children in San Diego’s Shelltown community is now being called a case of distracted driving, police confirmed Thursday.

Investigators told NBC 7 that the SDG&E driver behind the wheel of the company utility truck was distracted at the time of the deadly collision.

As of Thursday evening, no charges against the driver had been filed. However, the investigation is ongoing, and police said they do plan to pursue charges in the case.

On Wednesday, at around 7:40 a.m., mother Ana Herrera Rodriguez, 39, was walking her 5-year-old daughter to Balboa Elementary School along with a 4-year-old neighbor.

As the trio approached Cottonwood Street, between Osborn and Earl streets, an SDG&E utility truck plowed into them.

Rodriguez was pinned to underneath the vehicle. Her 11-year-old son told NBC 7 that he walked out of his home moments after the crash only to see his mother critically injured on the ground.

Neighbor Raquel Arias said she had just dropped off her 4-year-old daughter with Rodriguez when she heard screaming outside.

When she ran outside, she saw what she described as “a horrible scene.”

Arias said several neighbors jumped in and lifted the truck off Rodriguez while other neighbors rushed to help the two little girls.

Rodriguez died from injuries sustained in the accident.

Meanwhile, Arias’ daughter suffered chest and leg injuries and was taken to a local hospital. She was released to her family Wednesday evening and is now recovering at home.

Rodriguez’s 5-year-old daughter was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital with serious injuries, including a fractured pelvis and liver damage. She remained hospitalized Thursday evening.

According to neighbors, Rodriguez sacrificed her own life to save the two girls, possibly pushing them out of the way of the oncoming truck. Residents said the mother leaves behind two sons and two daughters.

Neighbor Kathy Martinez said the incident has rocked their tight-knit community.

“A lot of the kids go to school with the little girls and a lot of us know the parents. As a community, I think we stick together, so what happened yesterday was a tragedy, and I think it hit everybody’s hearts,” said Martinez.

An emotional candlelight vigil was held Wednesday night for Rodriguez. A makeshift memorial of flowers and candles was set up near the spot where she was killed.

The fatal accident remains under investigation.

For its part, SDG&E said it’s cooperating with the investigation. The company issued the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:

“A San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) employee was involved in a tragic accident this morning that took the life of a woman in San Diego. The driver was on duty and driving a company vehicle. The circumstances of this accident are under investigation and SDG&E is cooperating fully with authorities.”

“This is a devastating accident and our hearts and prayers go out to the family of the victim. Safety is at the foundation of who we are as a company – from initial employee training to the construction, operation and maintenance of our facilities and the service provided to our customers. We are holding a safety stand down with employees to underscore our commitment to employee and public safety.”

Rodriguez's family and neighbors said Rodriguez's life was taken too soon.

They want answers -- including answers to how or why the SDG&E driver didn't see Rodriguez and the girls walking before the collision.

This is the second fatal crash this month involving an SDG&E employee driving a company vehicle. On Jan. 6, SDG&E employee Hector Hoyt was involved in a hit and run collision in El Cajon that killed 54-year-old Robert Fisher. That case also remains under investigation.

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