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'This has been happening too much': Family of man killed in Highway 285 semi-truck crash speaks out

The driver of the semi-truck was charged with one count of careless driving resulting in death and three counts of careless driving resulting in injury.
Scott Miller
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jun 18, 2024

Correction: The driver of the semi-truck was charged with careless driving resulting in death and careless driving resulting in injury. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the driver was charged with vehicular homicide.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — The family of a man killed in a crash on Highway 285 near Conifer a week ago is speaking out for the first time.

The crash happened around 5 p.m. on June 11 on Highway 285 at milepost 232, south of Conifer. Colorado State Patrol (CSP) troopers said Ignacio Cruz-Mendoza was driving a semi-truck southbound on US 285 when he allegedly drove off the edge of the road, causing the semi to roll onto its side and dump its load of pipes and angle iron onto five vehicles.

Loved ones said Scott Miller, 64, was on his way home from the grocery store, less than 6 miles away from his house, when his vehicle was struck by the load. He was killed in the crash.

"We had just talked. I had just talked to him probably 10 minutes on the phone before he died," said Miller's wife, DeAnn Miller. "And then I got stuck in the traffic, and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, another accident.' And how ironic, I got a detour home, and it was my husband that was in that accident."

Scott Miller, deadly crash victim

Cruz-Mendoza was arrested for suspicion of vehicular assault and vehicular homicide. During a court appearance on Tuesday, he was charged with one count of careless driving resulting in death and three counts of careless driving resulting in injury.

On Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials told Denver7 Investigates Cruz-Mendoza was in the U.S. illegally and had been ordered to be removed to Mexico. The agency had been aware of Cruz-Mendoza since an arrest in Jefferson County, Oregon, in April 2002. Since then, an ICE spokesperson said Cruz-Mendoza had faced multiple removals and returned to Mexico at least 16 times.

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Denver7 Investigates

Semi driver in 285 fatal crash was in U.S. illegally, has long history with ICE

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During Cruz-Mendoza's court appearance Tuesday, Miller's wife, DeAnn, and the couple's daughter, Michelle Tusa, gave emotional testimony.

"It's just so hard when somebody's taken from you out of nowhere. He was just young. He was only 64, and I just want everybody to know my dad was fun. He was an awesome dad. He was an awesome grandfather. He left behind a grandson and a granddaughter, and they miss him. We're all gonna miss him," said Tusa.

Tusa told Denver7 that her father was a truck driver himself and a well-respected business owner who hauled water in the mountains.

"It was of his utmost concern, the safety of the truck drivers that drive heavy big rigs up in the mountains," said Tusa. "Since I was a kid, he’s always told me to be careful to drive around trucks, especially in the mountains because it takes an extreme amount of skill to drive equipment like that through mountain roads with steep grades and you just never know who you’re driving next to."

Miller's family said this is just the beginning of their push for justice and more awareness.

"I would just like to protect other people on the road, because this has been happening too much. And if his death is going to mean anything, it's going to mean that people are more aware and that truckers, as a profession, are more careful," said Tusa.

Cruz-Mendoza is currently being held on a $50,000 cash surety bond. He's due back in court on July 31.


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