Driver in North County crash charged with manslaughter

July 23, 2015

Kenworth_W900_semi_in_redA semi-truck driver who was involved in a Christmas eve crash that killed four people is accused of vehicular manslaughter, even though the driver with whom he collided was allegedly under the influence of drugs at the time. [Tribune]

The CHP alleges Phillip Ken Trujillo, 56, caused the crash by driving an unsafe vehicle and by not yielding to approaching vehicles that had the right-of-way. Trujillo is also accused of erasing his truck’s black box in an effort to hide the truck’s mechanical problems, which included defective gears.

On last Christmas Eve, Trujillo was returning to his Las Vegas home when he tried to turn left off Highway 101 into a truck stop at Wellsona Road near Paso Robles. Trujillo’s semi collided with an oncoming minivan, killing the four occupants of the van.

Each of the victims were residents of San Miguel. They ranged in age from 22 to 45.

A CHP report states Trujillo was driving a truck that had previously been cited for a mechanical problem. He drove at an average speed of 21.8 mph from San Luis Obipso to Paso Robles prior to the collision.

When Trujillo attempted to turn left onto Wellsona Road, he made the turn at an estimated 2 mph. Two cars headed southbound managed to avoid Trujillo’s semi.

But, 22-year-old Crystal Reuck crashed his van into the trailer of Trujillo’s truck. The collisions sheered off the van’s roof, and the van traveled under the trailer until it came to a stop 10 or 15 feet beyond the truck, witnesses told CHP officers.

While police investigated the collision, Trujillo was overheard taking directions on his cell phone about how to erase the truck’s black box.

Reuck, who died in the collision, was allegedly under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana at the time of the crash.

Still, Trujillo is charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. Trujillo is due in San Luis Obispo court for an arraignment on Aug. 13.

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15 Comments

  1. Perspicacious says:

    California Vehicle Code:

    21802. (a) The driver of any vehicle approaching a stop sign at the
    entrance to, or within, an intersection shall stop as required by
    Section 22450. The driver shall then yield the right-of-way to any
    vehicles which have approached from another highway, or which are
    approaching so closely as to constitute an IMMEDIATE hazard, and
    shall continue to yield the right-of-way to those vehicles until he
    or she can proceed with reasonable safety.
    (b) A driver having yielded as prescribed in subdivision (a) may
    proceed to enter the intersection, and the DRIVERS OF ALL OTHER
    APPROACHING VEHICLES SHALL YIELD THE RIGHT-OF-WAY
    TO THE VEHICLE ENTERING OR CROSSING THE INTERSECTION.

    I drove by the scene just after it happened. Little, if any evidence of braking prior to the collision and the collision was at the right side of the slow lane and into the rear portion of the trailer. Excellent visibility for abut a mile leading up to that point. Seems to me that the DUI driver couldn’t see an 80′ big rig in front of him that had clearly been there a while as it was nearly across the road when hit. You can’t just run into things when you should have had ample opportunity to stop or at least slow. It isn’t like the big rig just suddenly jumped out in front. Otherwise the collision would have been with the tractor, not the trailer.

    Just saying…

    (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down
    • Perspicacious says:

      …On the other hand, if he was returning TO Vegas, what was he doing N/B north of Paso Robles? Also, if he erased his black box, how do they know his average speed?

      (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      If the driver of truck did no wrong as per your thoughts, then WHY erase black box?

      Second I to have been through there a quite a bit and while drinking doesn’t excuse you, trucks do turn in front of traffic if it is a bit out, I am assuming with the thought that, hey you can either slow down or hit me. No harm to them usually.

      I see truck drivers abuse there size a LOT driving around with attitude you can move or else. Watched one on the 101 last week cut a lady off in the fast lane with barely a cars length and she had to brake.

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
      • Kevin Rice says:

        I don’t see “truck did no wrong” in ANY of Perspicacious’ thoughts. What I do see is the female driver did wrong.

        (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  2. pasoparent5 says:

    I drive past that Wellsona Rd/Hwy 101 intersection twice every single day.

    99% of the time, I witness an RV or semi-truck or fast driver dangerously turn right or left (depending on direction) in front of cars into the RV resort or the truck stop. It’s a very, very unsafe intersection and there’s a flashing yellow light one direction only. There really needs to be a traffic light there.

    With that being said, though Crystal (it’s a SHE, btw–she crashed HER van) was driving impaired, the truck’s the one who made an unsafe left turn into the truck stop and sheared off that roof of the mini-van, instantly killing its 4 occupants. The truck driver’s the one who attempted to destroy evidence. He should be convicted of manslaughter.

    There were 4 crosses in the field by the truck stop for many months but now they’re gone. I wish they’d leave them up as a reminder for all of us to be careful at that intersection.

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      I can guarantee you, you will never see a traffic light there. It will be an overpass. Caltrans spent years getting lights out of Santa Barbara on the 101. There use to be one on the 101 about 5 miles south of Gilroy. They stated at that time they do not want lights on a major highway like the 101. You risk more accidents when you have people stopping and people coming up behind them doing 70. You will just trade one problem for another.

      The real fix is if people would WAIT to turn till it is clear and wouldn’t be impatient assholes, you wouldn’t have a problem.

      (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
  3. SLO_Johnny says:

    We can only do so much to protect people from their own stupidity. This tragic accident is the result of two very stupid, thoughtless, reckless people occupying the same piece of road at the same time.

    I see stupid, reckless behavior everyday as I drive down the highway:
    Speeding, Tail Gating, Un-Signaled Lane Changes, Distracted Driving, Aggressive Driving

    It’s amazing that a lot more people aren’t killed or crippled.

    (19) 21 Total Votes - 20 up - 1 down
    • joseywales says:

      7 month investigation? what took so long? how to spin the lie/propaganda?

      (-10) 12 Total Votes - 1 up - 11 down
      • Kevin Rice says:

        7 months is fast. How about thoroughly interview all parties, research the vehicle, interview the manufacturer, run evidence through crime labs, etc., etc.

        You have a beef you are not disclosing.

        (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
  4. joseywales says:

    charge the DA for being stupid. Is the DA on Meth? only logical explanation.

    (-13) 21 Total Votes - 4 up - 17 down
    • Extremely Stoic says:

      It’s comments like this that make any other comments you make, easy to ignore. Sad and pathetic.

      (4) 12 Total Votes - 8 up - 4 down
      • joseywales says:

        really? what is sad about it? 5% of the worlds population and 25% of the worlds prison population? because of charges like this? so the DA, police, state, and politicians in the prison industrial complex can all justify extorting money from us?

        Open your eyes tool.

        (-9) 13 Total Votes - 2 up - 11 down
        • Kevin Rice says:

          Because uncivilized nations don’t effectively address crime.

          Quoting mindless stats in a vacuum is false argumentation.

          (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
      • zaphod says:

        Hy-stoic-al !

        ” a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.”

        (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down

Comments are closed.