Runaway Big-Rig Driver Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter

The crash occurred after the trucker's steep descent down Angeles Crest Highway from the San Gabriel Mountains

A big-rig driver was convicted Friday of involuntary manslaughter for piloting an out-of-control truck down a mountainous road and into a La Canada Flintridge intersection, causing a crash that killed a 12-year-old girl and her father.
Marcos Costa, 46, had been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, but jurors acquitted him of those charges and instead convicted him of the lesser counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The 10-man, two-woman panel also convicted him of two counts of vehicular manslaughter and three counts of reckless driving causing injury stemming from the April 1, 2009, crash at Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard.

Sentencing was set for Sept. 8. Costa will remain free on bail pending his sentencing hearing. It was not immediately clear how much prison time he was facing.

The jury began deliberations earlier this week in the case of Costa. On Thursday, the foreman told the judge the panel had made decisions on the two counts of second-degree murder, but were divided on the lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter.

After receiving more instructions from Superior Court Judge Darrell Mavis, jurors resumed deliberations early Friday.

A father and his daughter were killed and three other people were injured on April 1, 2009, when the 25-ton car-hauler Costa was driving traveled down Angeles Crest Highway from the San Gabriel Mountains, plowed through cross-traffic in the city of La Canada Flintridge and smashed into a row of shops.

Trucks normally take freeway routes around the rugged mountain range.

Authorities said Costa decided to take a winding, narrow route through the towering San Gabriel Mountains. They said he first used Angeles Forest Highway and then Angeles Crest Highway, which connects to the foothill suburbs northeast of the city.

Prosecutors argued that Costa showed gross negligence by ignoring an off-duty firefighter's warning that Angeles Crest Highway was too dangerous for his truck and he should turn around.

Prosecutors said that although Costa poured water on his smoking brakes, he didn't wait for them to cool down before continuing on the highway. The truck hurtled down a one-mile descent.

Costa's lawyer argued that he was following directions on his GPS to get through the mountains, saw no warning signs and that the lack of a runaway truck safety ramp were to blame for the accident. The defense argued that there was no evidence of criminal intent.

Costa's attorney said the verdict lined up with his strategy in the case.

"That was my original strategy in the case. It was pretty simple: to somehow get him off on the murder charge so the court would have discretion in sentencing him," said Edward Murphy following the verdict.

"The reason for that," he added, "was there are so many mitigating factors. He's an ordained minister who has never been in trouble before in his life."


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Yanette Sofia Polsca, who lost her husband and her young daughter in the crash, said the verdict left her numb.

"Whatever the verdict would have been, it's not going to bring them back," she said.

She said she felt bad for the family of the truck driver.

"Now they have to go through this, two families are going to be tormented because this man, whatever punishment he's going to be given, he's going to have to carry this for the rest of his life," Polsca said.

Polsca described the loss of her daughter as "incredibly damaging."

"Angelina was a beautiful, kind-hearted little girl who has truly been missed by many," she said.

She said her husband of more than 30 years was a wonderful father to all his seven children.

She said he was a friend to all.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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