SAN FERNANDO – A commercial truck has been charged with the deaths of two women and four children who were killed last summer when the truck crashed into their disabled van on the Golden State (5) Freeway in the Gorman area.
Richard Lopez, 70, is charged with six misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter and one misdemeanor count of failing to comply with California Highway Patrol rules regarding hours of service for drivers, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Lopez pleaded not guilty Thursday, July 13.
The charges, filed June 27, stem from the deaths of Connie Wu Li, 33; Flora Kuang, 33; Jayden Li, 5; Lucas Li, 3; Sky Ng, 4; and Venus Ng, 2, who were in a van that had broken down and was partially blocking the right lane near Gorman School Road on June 28, 2016, prosecutors said.
When the tractor-trailer that Lopez was driving crashed into the van, the van erupted in flames and went down an embankment, according to prosecutors.
The criminal complaint alleges that the driver had not rested the legally mandated 10 hours after allegedly driving for more than 15 hours.
The van had earlier been involved in a non-injury crash with a BMW at about 3:30 a.m. that day, and CHP officers were on their way to the scene at the time of the fiery crash, authorities said.
The women’s husbands — identified as Wei Xiong Li of Daly City and Aaron Hon Wing Ng of San Francisco — were taken to a hospital to be treated for burns they sustained to their faces and hands as they tried to save their families, CHP officers said shortly after the crash.
The CHP officers told reporters soon afterward that they had to hold back the fathers from the flames because it was too dangerous to try to save the women and children.
CHP Officer Jeff Burdick said it was hard to pull the two men away from the fire.
“We just held them,” Burdick said then. “That’s all we could do.”
CHP Officer Dan Williams said, “It was very horrific seeing them trying to get their families out, us trying to help get their families out.”
Lopez — who is due back in a San Fernando courtroom Aug. 4 for a pretrial hearing — could face up to six years in jail if convicted as charged, according to the District Attorney’s Office.