What to Know
- A pickup truck plunged 60 feet off the Coronado Bridge transition ramp into Chicano Park.
- The truck was going approximately 63 miles per hour before striking a barricade and going airborne, according to airbag system data.
- Prosecutors allege the defendant was distracted behind the wheel, sending a text message on his cellphone.
Jurors listened to closing arguments Wednesday in the trial of a U.S. Navy petty officer who faces prison time for launching his pickup truck off of the Coronado Bridge and crushing people gathered in a park below.
Richard Sepolio, 27, faces multiple felony charges including gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence in the October 2016 crash that killed four people in Chicano Park.
If convicted on all counts, Sepolio could spend up to 23 years in prison.
Jurors are hearing first from Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright who summarized testimony from law enforcement officers who administered or evaluated tests for alcohol use following the crash.
Sepolio denies driving under the influence, testifying that he had one glass of wine prior to the collision. Prosecutors allege he was also fighting with his then-girlfriend over the phone as he drove over the speed limit on the transition ramp to the bridge.
Sepolio testified that there was a car in front of him going slower in the left lane. He drove into the right lane and as he was about to pass the slower car, he said the car began to go faster. So he also started to go faster. Sepolio said he thought he had enough space to pass but it didn't feel right to him.
The only thing he recalled was looking down at the right-hand rail.
The next thing he remembers is the truck was rolled on its side and he saw that his wallet and phone had fallen from the console.
He grabbed his wallet and phone and was pulled out of the truck.
Defense attorney Paul Pfingst has acknowledged Sepolio was speeding while trying to pass another vehicle right before the crash, but made it clear he believed Sepolio was not drunk or negligent.
Officials said Sepolio was driving at more than 80 miles per hour when the posted limit was 65 miles per hour.
Sepolio was traveling north on Interstate 5 and had exited on the ramp that leads to the Coronado Bridge when he veered off and landed on a large group attending a festival at Chicano Park.
Cruz Elias Contreras, 52; AnnaMarie Contreras, 50; Andre Christopher Banks, 49; Francine Denise Jimenez, 46, were killed.
[G] Trial Begins in Case of Truck Crash Off Coronado Bridge
In his closing statement, Pfingst told jurors that the only thing that would make this tragedy worse would be to convict an innocent man of something he didn't do.
"That's just compounding the tragedy," he said.
Pfingst also said his client was not driving recklessly or with disregard for human life because he was trying to get into the left lane which Sepolio believed was the safer lane to be in when traveling on that bridge because of the lane merge.
Judge Charles G. Rogers allowed video cameras in for opening statements and has said he would allow video recording of closing statements but denied NBC 7 access to witness testimony in the trial including Sepolio's testimony.