A motorist ordered to stand trial Thursday for allegedly killing two workers on a freeway construction site in Torrance last summer was driving 92 mph and had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, court testimony revealed Thursday.
Friends told Yocio Jonathan Gomez, 33, of Norwalk that he should not get into his Ford Explorer when he left a party in Maywood after 3 a.m. July 22, said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Turk, who is prosecuting the case at the Torrance courthouse. Gomez ignored them and took off, the prosecutor said.
A short time later, Gomez hit the back of a Lexus traveling at about half his speed on the northbound San Diego (405) Freeway.
The Lexus spun out of control into the construction site where several Caltrans contract workers were drilling a hole, California Highway Patrol Officer Derek Stillmunks testified.
The Lexus, traveling at 47 mph, was rocketed at 68 mph into the men, without any sign of braking, Stillmunks said his investigation determined.
Turk said there was nothing the Lexus' driver could do to stop.
"It was sheer momentum," she said.
The crash killed Raymond Lopez, 56, of Chino Hills and Ricardo Zamora, 58, of Winchester, and injured Angel Mendoza, who told a courtroom packed with the deceased men's family members that he was standing 10 feet from his co-workers and ended up covered with Zamora's blood, Turk said.
Mendoza did not see the Lexus come toward the team of workers. He saw a sudden cloud of dust and was hit with the drill, Turk said.
"It was just luck that man was not killed," Turk said.
Lopez and Zamora were each sent flying into the air and died, he said.
Stillmunks said that as the Lexus plowed into the Caltrans site, the Ford Explorer kept traveling at high speed and rolled over, coming to rest on its roof. Gomez crawled out of the vehicle and brushed himself off, Turk said.
Gomez registered a 0.12 and 0.13 in breath tests at the crash scene, but did not blow hard into the device, Turk said. A blood test revealed his blood-alcohol level to be 0.21. The legal limit for driving is 0.08.
After hearing Stillmunks' and two other investigators' testimony, Judge Hector Guzman said enough evidence exists to put Gomez on trial for two counts of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence. Gomez has two previous drunken driving convictions, prosecutors said.
Gomez, who is in custody in county jail, is set for arraignment at Torrance court on Jan. 23. He is being held on $5 million bail.
Turk described the victims as family men. Lopez, whose wife died a few years ago, looked after his two daughters and a nephew. Zamora, who was married, "was the light of everybody's life," the prosecutor said.
At the time of the crash, CHP officers also arrested the Lexus' driver, Stephen Christopher Caserta, 43, of Playa Vista, on suspicion of drunken driving. Officers smelled alcohol on him, but the investigation revealed Caserta was not impaired, Turk said.
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