More than a year after a commercial box truck carrying U.S. mail slammed at high speed into an SUV on I-25, killing three generations of family members, a federal lawsuit is uncovering new details, and may soon expand in scope.
Aaron Godines was driving the SUV, which had slowed in traffic before it was rear-ended by the truck. He was killed along with his parents, Emiliano and Christina Godines, as well as his fiancee Halie Everts and their infant daughter, Tessleigh.
Court documents filed in a lawsuit over the accident show the Colorado company that owned the truck, Lucky 22, did not have insurance on it at the time of the crash, but attempted to add the vehicle to their policy a little more than an hour afterward.
The truck’s driver, Jesus Puebla, didn’t have a commercial driver’s license at the time of the crash and the truck’s brakes were out of alignment, according to documents in the lawsuit. Puebla is awaiting trial on five counts of vehicular homicide.
“It is one of the most horrendous showings or examples of the failures and the lack of oversight, management and control of the trucking industry,” said lawyer Grant Lawson, who is representing members of the Godines family in a federal lawsuit against the trucking company.
Additionally, Lawson has been laying the groundwork to add the U.S. Postal Service to the lawsuit. The trucking company had a long-standing contract with the USPS to haul mail between facilities, and Lawson argues the government agency failed in its due diligence by ignoring a past record of safety violations.
“Where is that oversight?” he said. “Is it okay just to go out and hire the cheapest motor carrier and to hell with insurance? To hell with safety? No way. I mean, that can't possibly be the way things are done or should be able to be done.”
The Postal Service said it could not comment on pending litigation but in a statement asserted, “At the time of the issuance of the contract, the Postal Service received the necessary and required insurance validation by Caminante[s] Trucking.”
Caminantes was the California-based company that held the USPS contract. According to the lawsuit, it brokered out some of its Colorado business to Lucky 22. The arrangement was a family affair, Lawson said; Jose Coreas, the owner of Caminantes Trucking, is father of Lucky 22’s owner, Carlos Coreas.
CPR tried to reach the law firm representing Carlos Coreas and Lucky 22 but has not yet received a response. A judgment was entered against Jose Coreas after he failed to respond to the lawsuit. Any damages against him will be decided at the end of the rest of the case.
Lawson believes the accident shows the need for greater oversight of the trucking industry, and more power to shut down bad actors. But Greg Fulton with the Colorado Motor Carriers Association argues the company’s publicly available safety record should have been enough for the Postal Service to break ties with it before the accident. His organization has pushed for a federal investigation into the service’s contract with Caminantes Trucking.
“If you look at this group’s record before this, it was unbelievable,” said Fulton. “You had the law there, you had the ability to do this. Why was nothing done?”
Editor's Note: The headline for this story has been updated to indicate the judge has not yet approved adding the Postal Service to the Godines' lawsuit.
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