DENVER – Drivers for the Houston-based trucking company for which the driver accused of causing a deadly crash on I-70 west of Denver last Thursday worked were hit with 30 safety violations, including for brake issues and a weak grasp of English, over the past two years, federal records show.
Family members told Denver7 last week that Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23, worked for Houston, Texas-based Castellano 03 Trucking LLC.
U.S. Department of Transportation records show the company employs five drivers and owns five semi-trucks and trailers. It is authorized for interstate carrying of general freight, utilities, agricultural, construction and water well cargo, according to the records, and is authorized to work in multiple Midwestern states.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records show there were 19 vehicle inspections over the past two years and that 30 violations were found by inspectors.
Over that time period, drivers have been hit three times for having chafing or kinking on their brake tubes and also for having their brakes out of adjustment, respectively.
Drivers for the company were also found to have three violations for having an automatic airbrake adjustment system that failed to compensate for wear, and one was found to have inadequate brake tubing or hoses, among other violations.
Aguilera-Mederos’ brother and brother-in-law both told reporters last week that he had called after the crash and said he lost his brakes in the mountains prior to the crash. He told police, according to an affidavit for his arrest, that his brakes were not working and that he tried to use his emergency brake “without success.”
But video from the mountains allegedly show him driving erratically and directly past a runaway truck ramp designed for semi-trucks that are out of control. He eventually slammed into traffic that was already stopped on eastbound I-70 near Denver West Parkway. The crash caused an explosion and fire that eventually killed four people.
Authorities identified the four victims of the crash last Sunday.
In August in Kansas and in December in Indiana, the driver or drivers of one of the fleet's trucks, plate TX-R375344, was found to have violated a rule requiring drivers to “understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language.” Another violation says: “Driver cannot read or speak the English language sufficiently to respond to official inquiries.”
The publicly available federal data do not specify which drivers were found to have violated the rules. Calls to the company's registered owner made Sunday have not been returned.
Police said last week after Aguilera-Mederos’ arrest that they used a translator to speak with him. He is a green card holder originally from Cuba, authorities and his family have said.
Federal requirements from the FMCSA say that drivers must be able to read and write English sufficiently enough to communicate with the general public, to understand traffic signs and signals in English, to respond to official inquiries and to make entries on reports and records.
And though one driver was hit with an unsafe driving violation and there were seven vehicle maintenance violations by the company over the past two years, there were no acute or critical violations discovered and no subsequent investigations, records show. There were also zero reported crashes over the timeframe.
Aguilera-Mederos is being held on a $400,000 bond after his arrest and first court appearance Saturday. He is being held for investigation on four counts of reckless vehicular homicide but has not been formally charged.
He is next due in court Friday, where he is expected to learn the formal charges he faces in the deadly crash.