Forklift Operator Found Guilty in Fatal Crash

Police LineA California man who was operating his forklift while intoxicated has been found guilty by a jury in connection with a crash that killed a woman and her teenage nephew.

On August 29. 2013, Daniel Castillo, 38, of Foxen Canyon, California, was driving his 12,000 pound forklift backwards at about 30 miles per hour for about four miles on a public road in Santa Maria, California, when it collided with a 1999 Honda Civic driven by 16-year-old Adolfo Pozos and three other family members, according to police. The force of the collision pushed the car into a drainage ditch on the of the road.

A Tragic Scene

Adolfo’s aunt, Casilda Dias Pozos, 49, who had been siting behind the driver and who wasn’t wearing a seat belt was ejected from the vehicle during the crash. Fire rescue workers had to tear the car apart to rescue the remaining victims.

Adolfo and Casilda Pozos were killed. Adolfo’s mother, Mahayte Pozos, and sister, Celizeth Pozos, also suffered serious injuries.

When police arrived on the scene, they found Castillo in a highly agitated condition, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Gregorio Escovedo.

“He was very nervous, pacing back and forth,” Escovedo testified during Castillo’s trial. “He said out loud, ‘I shouldn’t have had my foot all the way down on the gas pedal.’ ”

Castillo told CHP officers he saw the car coming toward him as he was making a left turn. When he didn’t slow down, he attempted to swerve out of the way.

Forklift Operator Admitted to Drinking and Taking Drugs

Castillo also told police at the scene that he had consumed one 12-ounce beer with lunch and had taken a Vicodin that morning for back pain. But a blood alcohol test revealed that the forklift operator had a BAC of 0.09% and traces of methamphetamine in his bloodstream. No Vicodin was found in his system.

Castillo later admitted to officers that he snorted a line of meth the night before the fatal crash.

“In my opinion, the driver of the forklift was under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs or drugs,” Escovedo testified. “The forklift crossed into the opposing land and crashed head-on into another vehicle.”

On Wednesday, a Santa Maria jury returned a verdict of guilty on two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, one count of driving under the influence causing injury, and one count of driving recklessly causing serious bodily injury.

Maximum Sentence of 15 Years Possible

Sentencing is scheduled for March 19 in Santa Maria Superior Court. Castillo could face up to 13 to 15 years in prison, although “under rare circumstances, he could receive probation,” depending on how the judge decides to direct the sentencing, according to prosecutor Stephen Foley.

District Attorney Joyce Dudley said after the verdict was read that the unfortunate accident was “another heart-breaking instance that proves driving under the influence of ‘meth’ or any intoxicating substance kills.”

Both survivors of the crash were present in the courtroom when the announcement was read. Foley said the victims’ family members were “extremely gratified that the criminal justice system worked for them.”

Castillo apparently was the owner of the forklift and had been driving it back to his home when the accident occurred.


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