Brake Issues Have Plagued The Company That Owned The Truck Involved In Fatal I-70 Crash

May 1, 2019
Photo: I-70 Truck Wreck Aftermath 1 AP 20190429David Zalubowski
Workers clear debris from the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 on Friday, April 26, 2019, in Lakewood, Colo., a deadly pileup involving semi-truck hauling lumber on Thursday. Lakewood police spokesman John Romero described it as a chain reaction of crashes and explosions from ruptured gas tanks. "It was crash, crash, crash and explosion, explosion, explosion," he said.

The company that owns a semitrailer involved in a fiery pileup that killed four people near Denver had two trucks taken out of service for brake-related issues in the past year, including one about two months before the Colorado crash.

Federal records say a March 6 inspection in Texas found that one of the five trucks owned by Houston-based Castellano 03 Trucking did not have adequate brake tubing or hoses, a violation that required the truck to be pulled off the road and fixed.

In August, another Castellano truck was taken out of service for chafing or kinking of a brake hose or tubing, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records.

Investigators have not released the license number of the semitrailer in the Colorado crash, so it's not yet known if it had been pulled from service.

Its driver, 23-year-old Rogel Lazaro Aguilera Mederos of Houston, told investigators the brakes failed.

No one answered phone calls Wednesday to the trucking company,

The records show the company had a total of 30 vehicle and driver violations resulting from 19 inspections over a two-year period for which records are available.

Other brake-related problems involved three violations each for having an out-of-adjustment clamp or roto-type brake and for having an automatic airbrake adjustment system that fails to compensate for wear.

However, the two violations involving brake tubing and hoses were the only ones that required trucks to be temporarily taken out of service. The company's out-of-service rate was just above the national average of 20.7 percent, the records say.

Other violations noted in the records included a damaged securement system for loads and insufficient tire tread. Problems with drivers involved not stopping for a traffic light and not understanding highway traffic signs and signals in English.

The Colorado crash occurred April 25 on Interstate 70 just after it descends from the mountains. The pileup involved 28 vehicles and multiple explosions.

Investigators allege that the truck had passed a sign alerting drivers about a ramp for runaway vehicles 2,000 feet ahead that enables vehicles to safely stop. They say the truck had a "free and unobstructed path" to the ramp off the side of the highway but instead swerved away from it.

Aguilera Mederos remains in custody on suspicion of vehicular homicide. He is scheduled to appear in court Friday, when prosecutors could announce charges against him.

His lawyer, Robert Corry, said the crash was an accident and Aguilera Mederos has fully cooperated with investigators.

"He cannot really even wrap his head around how awful it is. It's going to stick with him for the rest of his life," Corry said.

About 4,000 people are killed in the U.S. in crashes involving trucks each year. Crashes in which trucks cannot stop in time to avoid hitting slowed or stopped traffic are common according to Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety.

"Sadly, it's a scenario we have seen play out time and time again," said Peter Kurdock, general counsel for the Washington-based group.

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