A total of 66 people and 36 vehicles were involved in the August 19 pileup just before 10:30 a.m. that day. When the Wyoming Highway Patrol arrived on the scene, they divided the entire accident up into 7 events in which event number 4 was the one that involved young Sarahy Bringas. Event number 4 involved 16 vehicles that also included 10 tractor trailers.
However, Bringas' fatality was not the only one. There were a total of 4 fatalities that also involved both the Paguaga and Bringas families, but only the death of Bringas is of concern in the civil lawsuit that has been filed. Those killed in the crash in addition to Bringas were, Jackelyn Paguaga, Jose Noel Paguaga, and Noelia Sarahy Paguaga.
The jury, along with two alternatives, was selected on Monday in the case that alleges that a driver for Marten Transport Limited, Donald R. Stevens, was driving well over the speed limit in foggy conditions. As a result, Stevens' truck collided with a tractor trailer belonging to Central Refrigerated Services that was driven by Jose Noel Paguaga.
Bringas and her three children would sometimes ride with Jose Noel Paguaga in his truck. They were actual residents of Utah, but were passing through Wyoming at the time. Because Bringas was killed in the crash, the case was filed on behalf of Bringas' estate by estate representative Gloria Valee Toledo. She is also filing on behalf of Cinthya Azucena Paguaga, daughter of Bringas.
The attorney for Toledo and Paguaga, Tony Lopez, has stated that there is a witness who helped Stevens out of his truck after the collision and noticed there was smoke coming out of the cab of Paguaga's truck. However, the accident-reconstruction expert witness does not know if the death of Bringas was due to the fire or from the actual collision. Accident reconstruction could not determine this.
The attorney for Marten Transport and Stevens, Greg Greenlee, says that there is evidence that Stevens' truck never made contact with the cab section of Paguaga's truck. He does state that Stevens' truck did hit the side of Paguaga's truck, but did not hit the tractor or the cab section.
Greenlee has also stated that there is evidence that Paguaga was exceeding the speed limit in foggy conditions, which caused his truck to jackknife across the highway.
In Lopez's arguments, he asked the jury that an unspecified amount of damages be awarded to Toledo and Paguaga after considering the evidence. When Lopez had initially questioned the jurors, he asked them if they would have a problem with him seeking $5 or $10 million for his clients.
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Following the arguments, the first witness was called by Lopez, which was Lt. Klief Guenther of the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Guenther recalled the scene and how each vehicle was involved in the seven separate events. He did state that because a fire had occurred in the middle of event 4, reconstructing the event was very difficult. He stated that the investigation by the patrol had made the determination that the Marten Transport truck was the last vehicle that had appeared on the scene.
The trial is expected to last until late next week. When the trial opened, Stevens hugged Toledo and told her that he was sorry for her loss.
By Ginger Gillenwater