January 15th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) The tragedy occurred on Saturday, around 11:30 pm, on the stretch of the Inter-American highway between La Cruz and Penas Blancas, in Guanacaste, on a curve right before the Sonzapote River.
The state of the victims’ bodies was such that the Judicial Police hard difficulty in identifying them.
However, according to information provided by family members, authorities stated that the deceased were: the driver of the vehicle, Manuel Torres Chaves (28 years old), 20-year-old Eliza Jiron Aburto, Junior Arias Alegria, 32, Miniza Zuniga, 24; Gilbert Cruz Sanchez, 28 years old, and Vanessa Arias Alegria, who was 34 ( Junior’s sister).
According to the report from the Transit Police, minutes before the accident, the semi-truck left from La Cruz with a cargo of rock and stone. Apparently, upon arriving at the curve, the driver crossed the median into oncoming traffic, causing a head-on collision with the victims’ vehicle and dragging it some 30 meters.
Afterwards, according to police, the semi’s trailer filled with rock and stone crushed the car and its occupants. The extraction of the bodies took about 12 hours, and both Red Cross workers as well as the Fire Department were involved.
Armando Meza, a transit officer from Liberia, stated that the truck driver’s Breathalyzer exam gave a positive result, indicating 1.7 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. The maximum amount allowed under law is 0.75.
The Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) arrested the driver, of the last name Chaves, on suspicion of manslaughter. The man has received 22 traffic infractions since 2001.
The victims were three couples who worked in the area. Manuel Torres worked at a gasoline station in Penas Blancas, and those who were close to him stated that he liked to ride bulls. Junior Arias, on the other hand, was a former police officer, whom was no longer with the Fuerza Publica, but instead, worked informally exchanging dollars at the border, as did Gilbert Cruz.
The parents of the victims stated that the couples often went out together. That night, a while before the accident, they were in a bar having a couple of beers.
The accident left eight children orphaned.
According to the Transit Police, this is the first manslaughter case due to alocohol that will be tried under the new Traffic Law, which has been in effect since October 26th, 2012.
The new norm, defined in article 117 of the Penal Code, regarding involuntary manslaughter, defines a penalty of one to 10 years imprisonment for anyone who kills another while being under the influence of alcohol while driving a motor vehicle. As a result, Chaves may face up to 60 years in prison for all 6 deaths.
Previously, the punishment ranged from 6 months to 8 years.
The District Attorney’s office requested 4 months of preventive prison against Chaves for 6 counts of involuntary manslaughter. The Liberia Penal Court issued him 6 months instead.
Five of the victims were laid to rest yesterday, and the funeral of the 6th victim is planned today.