Southern California

Driver Faces Felony DUI Charges in Crash That Hurt Christmas Spectators

The crash hurt at least six children and left a 27-year-old woman in the intensive care unit with a serious head injury, police say

A suspected drunken driver cried in a Southern California courtroom Wednesday when he faced felony charges in a crash that hurt more than a dozen bystanders looking at Christmas decorations.

Ismael Soto, 28, is accused of plowing his pickup truck into a minivan, sending the van spinning into a crowd of spectators and leaving 15 people hurt, including himself, police said.

Soto, who has prior convictions including DUI and hit-and-run, was allegedly driving on a revoked license with a blood alcohol content higher than .20 percent when he crashed Sunday night, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The crash hurt at least six children and left a 27-year-old woman in the intensive care unit with a serious head injury. Police first said 13 people were hurt but on Wednesday changed the number to 15.

"To see those kids crying and their parents on the ground injured, (it) just tears at your heartstrings," witness Gary Taylor said. "The guy has no concern otherwise he wouldn't have gotten behind the wheel."

Court records show Soto was convicted in February 2013 of driving with a suspended license and driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, and November 2013 for driving under the influence and hit-and-run.

Soto was also convicted in 2013 of driving with a suspended license. A judge then revoked his license in November 2013 after he allegedly refused a chemical test, records showed.

Soto is now facing charges including DUI causing injury within 10 years of two other DUI offenses; driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol content causing injury within 10 years; driving while license was suspended or revoked for DUI conviction; and driving a vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock device when driving privilege was restricted,

He could more than 20 years behind bars if convicted. But some who saw the crash say that's not enough.

"They should charge him at least five years for every person that he injured (to) make sure he never comes out and stays in there for the rest of his life," witness Gilbert Armenta said. "For the rest of his life so he could rot in there."

The DA's office could not immediately confirm whether Soto had a lawyer. His arraignment was postponed to Jan. 13.

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