Teen driver in Carbondale wreck arrested on vehicular homicide
The 19-year-old driver in a tragic wreck that killed a Carbondale teen and injured five others Sunday night has been arrested on a charge of vehicular homicide.
The wreck, on Thompson Creek Road just west of Carbondale, claimed the life of 17-year-old Ayleen Ruiz Alvarado.
After being treated at Valley View Hospital for injuries from the wreck, the driver, Gerardo Banda, was arrested Monday on charges of felony vehicular homicide, two felony counts of vehicular assault, driving under the influence and driving under restraint. His arresting charges also included illegal possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor younger than 21, a petty offense.
Vehicular homicide involving DUI carries a maximum sentence, in a case of aggravated circumstances, of 32 years in prison, along with five years mandatory parole and up to $750,000 in fines.
Paged to the wreck at about 9:39 p.m. Sunday night, emergency responders found car parts scattered along the road and the Audi sedan, which had been carrying six young people, upside down in a creek at the bottom of a 200-foot ravine. The driver had lost control while trying to pass another vehicle and rolled the sedan into the ravine, according to Colorado State Patrol.
At the hospital, asked what had happened, Banda “advised me that he was trying to avoid a car and next thing he knew he was in a creek,” a trooper wrote in his report. “Mr. Banda also stated it was all his fault and that he lost a friend.”
He told the trooper that he’d had a can of Modelo beer.
All the surviving passengers were taken to Valley View Hospital. None of these young people appeared to be wearing seat belts, according to CSP.
County Judge Paul Metzger set Banda’s bond at $75,000, cash or surety, during advisements Tuesday. In Banda’s first court appearance, Deputy District Attorney Tony Hershey said that testing after the wreck showed the 19-year-old’s blood-alcohol content to be at .115 on a portable breath test. A trooper administered this test at 11:09 p.m., according to an affidavit. However, that type of test is not admissable in court. The trooper also got a warrant and obtained three samples of Banda’s blood.
Banda, who told the judge he has lived in Glenwood Springs for about five years and works as a painter, bore some cuts and scrapes, but no major injuries were apparent in the courtroom.
Hershey said one of the occupants was very seriously injured but is expected to be released from the hospital soon. Some people don’t take drinking and driving seriously, “but this is a serious issue, and people get injured and killed from it,” said Hershey. “It’s heartbreaking, your honor.”
The deputy district attorney asked for the $75,000 bond, fearing that Banda was a flight risk given the extreme offenses in this case.
Metzger also issued a mandatory protection order barring Banda from contacting any victims or witnesses in the case. This order also bars him from possessing or consuming alcohol or any controlled substances.
Banda will appear in court again on May 31, when the DA’s office is expected to have filed formal charges.
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A month-long trial moves into its final stages.