A newly-licensed Hemet teenager is facing criminal charges in last week's school-front crash that sent eight Hemet High School students to the hospital, a CHP spokesman said Monday.
Eighteen-year-old Daniel Carrillo was driving his Ford Ranger truck in front of the school on Wednesday, when he plowed into a group of 30 students walking in a crosswalk in front of the school, according to CHP Officer Darren Meyer.
Carrillo had only been licensed to drive for 15 days when the crash happened.
—three of them with critical injuries, according to Meyer. Though most of them have since been released from the hospital, one student remained hospitalized in serious condition as of Monday afternoon.
That student, identified as 15-year-old Helen Richardson, had serious head injuries, but her mother told the CHP that doctors are confident she'll continue to see progress as her condition improves.
"This was not an accident," Meyer said Monday during a press conference at the CHP's Beaumont headquarters. "It's a traffic collision and traffic collisions are avoidable, and we do believe there is negligence as far as [Carrillo’s] driving that contributed to this incident, so factors are included in the criminal report that will be sent to the district attorney's office."
Meyer said that there are two main things that have led to a criminal investigation: Carrillo was speeding—weaving in and out of traffic in front of the school—and, he ran a red light at the crosswalk.
"Carrillo has previously reported to some that his brakes had failed," Meyer said. "He gave that statement to us and our investigating officers. We impounded the vehicle and performed a full mechanical inspection on that vehicle. We've determined, [through] the inspection of the truck, the mechanical condition was not a contributing factor in the collision."
Meyer said that, based on witness statements and school surveillance footage, Carrillo was driving faster than 50 mph in the school zone of 25 mph when he blew through the red light at the crosswalk where the crash happened.
"Our investigators are in communication with the Riverside District Attorney's office in regards to the filing of criminal charges," he added. "While those specific charges have not been chosen yet, they are serious."
CHP has impounded the truck and it's being held for another two weeks so the district attorney's office can look it over as evidence in this case, Meyer said.
Charges are expected to be filed by the end of the month.
Carrillo has not been taken into police custody yet, but Meyer said an arrest is imminent, once the charges are determined.
As for Carrillo’s claim that the brakes failed on his truck, Meyer said he’s sticking to that story.
“He has been cooperative [with investigators] but he’s a teenager, so we are taking that into account,” Meyer said of Carrillo’s cooperation with investigators in this crash. "He hasn't been 100-percent truthful.”
Neither alcohol nor drugs are believed to have played a role in the crash. Carrillo had two passengers in the truck at the time of the collision, his twin brother and a 16-year-old friend. Those passengers are "not totally" being cooperative with investigators.
The accident happened right before summer break from school—it was the last day of class for seniors, and lower classmen had two more days. No seniors were hit.
—Renee Schiavone is the editor of Banning-Beaumont Patch.