MOAPA, Nev. – At least a young man who was accused of DWI in a crash in Nevada that caused the death of five California family members was cleared of charges Wednesday after evidence from DNA showed it was his friend on the wheel of the SUV.
When Jean Ervin Soriano, age 18, was tested after the wreck, his BAC was 0.12% when the SUV rear-ended a van. Seven family members from the Los Angeles area were on their way home after visiting a sick relative in Denver after an Easter weekend. Soriano faced seven fatal charges of DUI during the pre-dawn crash last March 30 on I-15 about 80 miles NE of Las Vegas.
After the investigation, it was later determined that Soriano was not the driver but his friend. Alfred Gomez, age 23 resident St. George-Utah, who was originally taken as one of the passenger. Highway Patrol investigators did not test him so it was not known if he had been drinking as they found several beer bottles in the vehicle.
Based on evidence from DNA, a footprint found on the door of the driver and some blood droplets left on window of passenger’s seat proved that Soriano was not the driver of the Dodge Durango SUV, which rolled over after the 3:00 o’clock in the morning crash.
Crash report stated that the Durango was running over 105 MPH on the two-lane which allowed only 75 mph in the freeway. Due to its speed, it swerved sharply and crashed with the Chevrolet van that was traveling slowly along the road.
Soriano and Gomez sustained injuries when their Dodge Durango crashed the back of a Chevrolet van bearing a family who were returning to Los Angeles for Easter after visiting a sick relative in Denver.
The wreck overturned the van in the desert which resulted to the death of: (1) Genaro Fernandez, age 41 and resident of Norwalk; (2) Raudel Fernandez-Avila, age 49; & (3)Belen Fernandez, age 53, both residents of Lynwood; (4) Angela Sandoval, age 13; and (5) Leonardo Fernandez-Avila, age 45, both residents of Los Angeles.
Maria Rosario Cardanas, age 40 who was driving the van and Eddie Sandoval, age 15 who was a passenger, were the only survivors.
Soriano was arrested and authorities in Orange County, Calif. learned that he fled on March 1 from a juvenile guidance center in Santa Ana that treats drug and alcohol abusers.
Soriano’s lawyer said in court that Soriano was intimidated by the other man, Alfred Gomez to admit that he was the driver. Gomez was also injured in the crash and hospitalized so he was not tested for BAC.
Brian Rutledge who served as prosecutor said that since the investigation has not been closed, Gomez is still liable to face vehicular homicide or a severe DUI case causing serious bodily injury or even a death charge. Rutledge added that he didn’t know if Gomez was still living in St. George or he had returned to Southern California, or had moved somewhere else.
Soriano had been jailed on a bail worth $3.5 million and was not released immediately but remained in custody for the 50-mile trip back to Las Vegas for processing and release from the Clark County jail. Keeping a bowed head, he was silent while his parents and an aunt were in the courtroom feeling glad fr his release.
Soriano’s lawyer said that it wasn’t likely that his client would seek civil damages based on the arrest.
Accident victims have rights. If you were injured in a car accident, contact an experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer now for free consultation. He will protect the rights of you and your loved ones. You may be entitled to financial compensation for economic damages, as well as pain and suffering.
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