LOS ANGELES (AP) – A Nevada judge set bail at $3.5 million on Monday for a California teenager jailed on felony drunk driving charges in a weekend crash that killed five family members on an interstate northeast of Las Vegas.
Authorities said a family van was rear-ended at around 3 a.m. Saturday by an SUV driven by 18-year-old Jean Ervin Soriano.
Soriano told the arresting trooper he had “too many” beers before the crash, according to an arrest report made public Monday. Trooper Loy Hixson said several beer bottles were found in the 1999 Dodge Durango that Soriano said he was driving.
“He basically destroyed a lot of families,” said Griselda Fernandez, a relative of the victims. “We’re no one to criticize or anything. I know that God will somehow punish him.”
A trio of brothers and their family members had been visiting their sick father in Denver and had been expected home Saturday to prepare for an Easter celebration.
The five people killed _ three men, a woman and a girl from Los Angeles, Lynwood and Norwalk, Calif. _ were in a Chevrolet Astro van that was hit from behind. Troopers said most of the passengers in the van were thrown from the vehicle as it overturned in the desert.
The dead were identified as Genaro Fernandez, 41, of Norwalk; Raudel Fernandez-Avila, 49, and Belen Fernandez, 53, both of Lynwood; and Angela Sandoval, 13, and Leonardo Fernandez-Avila, 45, both of Los Angeles.
Belen Fernandez and Raudel Fernandez-Avila had been married for 33 years. She didn’t want to go on the weeklong trip, but her children eventually persuaded her to go.
“She didn’t want to leave her grandkids,” her daughter, Griselda Fernandez, recalled Monday, weeping. “But we all told her, you have to go with my dad. My dad needs your help.”
Two more people in the van, Eddie Sandoval, 15, and Maria Rosario Cardenas, 40, remained hospitalized Monday at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. Sandoval was in good condition and Cardenas was in fair condition, hospital spokeswoman Danita Cohen said.
Results of a blood-alcohol test on Soriano were pending, authorities said. A truck driver told investigators that he saw Soriano and his passenger walk away from the crash site then return before rescue crews arrived.
Soriano, who told the judge he lives in St. George, Utah, will be assigned a public defender for his arraignment April 10. He had previously lived in California, but it wasn’t immediately clear where.
He was hospitalized for several hours after the crash on Interstate 15 about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas then taken to the Clark County jail, the Nevada Highway Patrol said.
Ritter reported from Las Vegas. Associated Press writers Martin Griffith in Reno, Nev., and Gillian Flaccus in Orange County, Calif., contributed to this report.
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