Marcos Costa, the big-rig driver who careened down Angeles Crest Highway into La Canada Flintridge's Foothill Boulevard, killing two people, pled not guilty to vehicular manslaughter Monday morning. On April 1, the brakes went out on Costa's double-decker car carrier as he came down the steep grade toward the town center. Along the way he slammed into five vehicles, killing the occupants of one car while injuring a dozen other people. Costa is accused of ignoring weight restrictions on the highway that winds through the San Gabriel Mountains. The Massachusetts resident, who is currently free on $200,000 bail, could receive a maximum of 12 years on each of the counts.
The accident has sparked a firestorm of accusations by residents against CalTrans, whom they accuse of ignoring warnings about heavily laden trucks being allowed to use the steep and narrow, serpentine Angeles Crest Highway. They also claim that CalTrans has obscured a runaway-truck lane intended for the kind of emergency that occurred April 1. The mountain highway is now temporarily off-limits to heavy trucking until a permanent ban can be imposed.
Now, it turns out, the company who hired Costa as an independent
contractor has had its drivers pulled off highways a third of the time
they've been inspected. The Pasadena Star-News reported that Adonai & Associates of Kennesaw, Georgia, while not having suffered any previous
crashes, has had its drivers removed from their rigs 33.3 percent of
the time following safety inspections, compared to a national average
of 6.8 percent. Also, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,
in the past two years Adonai & Associates vehicles have been
removed from the road 37.5 percent of the time following such
inspections, compared to a national figure of 23.14 percent. The
statistics are based on the inspections of eight vehicles and nine