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Trucker in deadly Colorado crash charged with 40 criminal counts

DENVER (Reuters) - A Texas truck driver who police say caused a fiery multi-vehicle crash near Denver last week that killed four people and injured four was charged on Friday with 40 criminal counts including vehicular homicide, prosecutors said.

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Police in Lakewood, Colorado said they arrested 23-year-old Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos after he lost control of his tractor-trailer truck during the evening rush hour on April 25 and caused a crash on Interstate 70 that involved at least 28 vehicles.

The district attorney for Jefferson County, where the crash took place, charged Aguilera-Mederos with 40 counts on Friday, including four counts of vehicular homicide, six of first degree assault and 24 of attempted first degree assault.

A preliminary hearing in the case was set for July 11. Aguilera-Mederos is being held on a $400,000 bond.

The tractor-trailer, which was carrying lumber, rammed into several cars, causing a pile-up that became a raging inferno, authorities said. The four men who died were all single occupants in their vehicles, according to a local TV station.

“The carnage was significant,” police spokesman Ty Countryman said at the time. “Just unbelievable.”

There was no initial indication that Aguilera-Mederos intentionally caused the crash, or that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Countryman said.

Aguilera-Mederos told police his brakes had failed, but cell phone video from a witness showed his truck veering across several lanes of traffic and forcing another vehicle off the road before the crash, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Rob Corry, a lawyer for Aguilera-Mederos, said last week that the crash was an accident caused by equipment malfunction.

“This is a massive unprecedented overreach by the prosecution ... on a vehicle accident,” Corry told reporters on Friday.

Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; editing by Steve Orlofsky