Investigators at the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office have issued a rare plea for the public’s help locating witnesses to a triple-fatal accident that happened on Highway 285 near South Turkey Creek Road on Aug. 14.
The Colorado State Patrol estimates that a car, driven by 23-year old Alex Granillo Alvarado, was traveling close to 100 miles per hour, when it careened off the road and crashed.
Granillo Alvarado is now facing three counts of Vehicular Homicide.
Chelsey Gallegos, and her cousins, Samantha Manzanares Benavides and Sean Muniz died when Alvarado’s Silver 2008 BMW 328i went off the highway and began to rotate counter clockwise. The car traveled down a steep embankment and rolled two and a half times before coming to rest on its top.
All four occupants were ejected. None were wearing seatbelts.
“It’s an unusual case in the sense that several hours passed from the time of the occurrence to when it was discovered,” said District Attorney Peter Weir.
According to the arrest affidavit, the crash occurred around 10 p.m. on Aug. 14, but wasn’t discovered until 8:05 a.m. on Aug. 15, by one of the property workers.
Weir also said the investigation was stymied early on because the driver suffered serious injuries himself, was hospitalized and then transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. Authorities had to execute a warrant to determine where he was.
“It’s imperative that we obtain justice,” Weir said.
The victims’ families agree.
“It was completely preventable,” said Anthony Gallegos, Chelsey’s father. “Had he just been driving the normal speed, we wouldn’t be here today.”
“The frustrating part,” Gallegos added, “is our children might still have been alive. They were on that mountain for ten hours (before the crash was found.)”
Gallegos said he’d heard there was a 911 call made that night, but that investigators didn’t find the crash.
The DA says they have no evidence that a 911 call was made.
Gallegos also said he’s heard that Granillo Alvarado is claiming that he was being chased.
“I don’t believe it,” Gallegos said.
Neither Anthony and Felicia Gallegos, nor Samantha’s mom and stepdad, Dominica and Carlos Ferguson have heard from Alvarado.
“I don’t need an apology,” Dominica Ferguson told Denver7. “I’m not the higher power that he needs to ask forgiveness from. I just want him to be held accountable.”
Investigators suspect alcohol played a role in the crash.
According to the affidavit, there were several open containers found at the scene, but many were open due to the crash. Alvarado’s blood samples showed no alcohol content, but investigators note that the samples were drawn more than 15 hours after the accident.
The affidavit also states that the flight nurse asked Alvarado if he had been drinking, “and he stated that he was drinking and driving.”
Camping in the Mountains
Felicia Gallegos said her daughter had texted her and told her she and the others were going camping.
“They went camping and ran into some weather,” Anthony Gallegos said, “so they were coming back.”
He said his daughter loved life, loved photography and loved her siblings.”
“She lived life to the fullest,” Felicia said. “I called her my little rebel because she was always here and there and could never stay in one place.”
Dominica Ferguson told Denver7 that Samantha and her cousin, Chelsey, had been very close since they were two years old.
When asked what she remembered most about Samantha, Dominica replied, “She was full of life, and nearly as perfect of a person as could be.”
Muniz' stepfather, Gary Barela, said Sean was full of life.
"He cared for his brothers and sisters and his mom and dad," Barela said. "He was going to the Coast Guard."
Barela added that Sean didn't have enemies.
"He made friends wherever he went," he said. "If someone was in a bad mood, he made them feel better."
Barela said the four kids hung out every weekend, usually at his house.
"It was a surprise to hear they took off up to the mountains," he said.
Weir said if anyone saw the crash or if anyone saw the car on the highway before the crash, they’d like to talk to them, even if the witnesses had previously talked to investigators.
“Frankly, we’re having difficulty relocating those individuals,” Weir said. “If they can come forward, that could be a tremendous assistance.”