TUCSON, Ariz. — A big-rig driver was looking at cellphone photos of
scantily clad women when he slammed into police cars and emergency vehicles on a
Yuma County freeway in a crash that killed an Arizona Department of Public
Safety officer, according to records released Thursday.
Records obtained from the DPS by the Arizona Daily Star through a public records request show that Jorge Espinoza was driving an empty
fuel tanker truck 65 mph with cruise control on when the May 6 crash occurred.
He was travelling from Yuma to Phoenix and wasn’t injured in the crash.
Espinoza, 33, initially told investigators he didn’t see the police cars
because he was looking in his mirror at a passing truck, according to DPS. He
also told authorities that he never uses his phone while driving because it’s
against company policy.
But the DPS records show information taken from the phone shows Espinoza was
using the internet at the time of the crash and was looking at “photographs of
several women in provocative positions, wearing little clothing” and
“photographs of a woman in a low cut dress.”
Espinoza, 33, used his phone to look at Facebook, YouTube, female escort web
pages, porn sites and social networks on other occasions when he was logged in
as driving, according to investigators.
Officer Tim Huffman, a 14-year DPS veteran, was killed when the tanker truck
smashed into three police cars and two fire department trucks at an accident
site near Wellton on Interstate 8.
Authorities said Huffman, 47, was in his patrol vehicle writing a report at the
time. He was declared dead at the scene.
Espinoza, of Yuma, has pleaded not guilty to 20 felony charges including one
count of second-degree murder, 13 of endangerment and six of criminal damage.
“Espinoza would have been able to perceive the danger in the roadway and not
cause the death of Officer Tim Huffman, endangered the lives of 11 other
emergency responders and destroyed six vehicles, including a new semi-tractor
and trailer owned by his employer, if he had not chosen to distract himself
while accessing Facebook from his cellular telephone while operating his
assigned commercial vehicle,” investigators concluded in the DPS report.
Espinoza is out of custody in $200,000 bond. His hearing Wednesday in Yuma
County Superior Court was continued until Dec. 11 to give his attorney, Michael
Donovan, more time to interview witnesses in the case.
A call to Donovan seeking comment about the DPS records and his client wasn’t
immediately returned Thursday.
Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com