Driver arrested in Idaho Falls crash that killed 6 people was drunk, says prosecutor - East Idaho News

Driver arrested in Idaho Falls crash that killed 6 people was drunk, says prosecutor

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IDAHO FALLS – A man charged with causing a crash that killed six people was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol.

According to a news release from Bonneville County Prosecutor Randy Neal, the state has requested to amend the criminal complaint against Luis Garcia-Diaz, 26.

Garcia-Diaz, of Rexburg, was charged with six counts of felony vehicular manslaughter related to a crash on U.S. 20 on May 18.

Neal says the amendment is based on additional evidence received through the Idaho State Police investigation, which “indicates the defendant was operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol.”

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The amendment will not change the charge but will allow for a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on each count.

“The original charges were based on evidence collected at the scene, but a blood alcohol level has now been established by evidence received by the State Police through the service of search warrants,” Neal says.

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The fatal crash occurred in the early morning hours of May 18 on U.S. Highway 20 close to the Lindsay Boulevard exit in Idaho Falls.

A Dodge Ram pickup was traveling east when “it was driven left of center and collided with a westbound Chevrolet passenger van,” according to a news release from the Idaho State Police.

The van had 14 passengers plus the driver during the collision.

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Bonneville County Coroner Rick Taylor identified the deceased as Abel Mejía Martínez, 43, Pedro Manuel Alcantar Mejía, 26, Brandon Ponce Gallegos, 24, Jose Guadalupe Sánchez Medina, 20, Luis Enrique Sereno Perez, 32 and Javier Gomez Alcantar, 36.

All were from Mexico, but it is not clear from what area. The investigation continues to determine Garcia-Diaz’s immigration status.

“The driver of the van, along with five other passengers in the van, succumbed to their injuries at the scene of the crash,” the release stated. “Nine other passengers of the van were injured and transported to a local hospital via ground ambulances.”

The nine surviving passengers in the van were taken to area hospitals, and their conditions are unknown.

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The pickup’s driver, Garcia-Diaz, was also transported to a hospital for treatment.

Both lanes were closed for five and a half hours, and the westbound lane remained blocked for another hour as Idaho State Police, Idaho Falls Police Department, Idaho Falls Fire Department, and Idaho Transportation Department responded to the scene.

Though Garcia-Diaz has been charged with these crimes, it does not necessarily mean he committed them. Everyone is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.

If convicted, Garcia-Diaz could face up to 90 years in prison. He is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on June 7.