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Coronado Bridge safety at issue after deadly pickup plunge

Police stand near the pickup truck that landed at Chicano Park after it flew off a ramp to the San Diego Coronado Bridge in San Diego on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Four people were killed and nine were injured on Saturday after an out-of-control pickup truck plunged off the San Diego-Coronado Bridge and plowed into crowd gathered at a festival below, authorities said. (Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)
October 18, 2016 - 6:14 PM

SAN DIEGO - People living near the Coronado Bridge called Tuesday for new safety measures after a suspected drunken driver plunged off the San Diego span and smashed into a festival 60 feet below, killing four people.

"All we're asking is for please, as soon as possible, to get some ... high rails so that we won't ever have to have something like this happen again," said Tomasa "Tommie" Camarillo, who has worked 46 years to preserve Chicano Park under the bridge.

At a news conference in the park, Camarillo said she has seen everything from motorcycles to a fender come crashing down near where people were gathered and children were playing.

State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, vowed to make the bridge's safety a top priority, although he did not provide specifics.

The bridge links San Diego to the Navy town of Coronado across the bay. The park is known for brightly colored murals painted on the bridge's columns in honour of one of the oldest Mexican-American neighbourhoods in the United States.

On Saturday, the GMC pickup blew through a concrete retaining wall and crashed into a booth as a crowd gathered for La Raza Run, a motorcycle ride that began in downtown Los Angeles and ended at the park. Four people died and nine were injured, including vendors trapped under the pickup, which landed only steps away from a stage where a rockabilly band was playing.

The driver, Richard Anthony Sepolio, was expected to be arraigned at a hospital Wednesday on four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, a felony DUI causing injury or death, and three counts of gross bodily injuries in a DUI crash, California Highway Patrol Capt. Jim Nellis said.

Sepolio was recovering from an injured back and other injuries at a hospital. The 25-year-old Navy aviation electronics technician, who enlisted in 2014, was assigned to Helicopter Combat Squadron 6 at the base in Coronado.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner identified the people killed as Cruz Elias Contreras, 52, and Annamarie Contreras, 50, of Chandler, Arizona; and Andre Christopher Banks, 49, and Francine Denise Jimenez, 46, both from Hacienda Heights, a suburb east of Los Angeles.

The suspect's mother, Blanca Sepolio, said family members didn't wish to comment on the crash when reached by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

_____

Watson reported from San Diego. Weber reported from Los Angeles.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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