Pixel Tracker

Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 11:33 pm | Fair 47º

 
 
 
 

Witnesses Testify That Man on Forklift Was Driving Unsafely, Erratically Before Fatal Crash

A “series of bad decisions” led Daniel Castillo to erratically drive a forklift in reverse at a fast speed on a road east of Santa Maria, where it collided with a car, killing two people and injuring two others, a prosecutor told a jury Monday.

Daniel Castillo

Castillo, 38, of Santa Maria is on trial for two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, with special allegations of causing great bodily injury, causing bodily injury to more than one victim, and committing a serious offense.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley told a Santa Barbara County Superior Court jury that on a clear afternoon Aug. 29, 2013, Castillo decided to drive a forklift to his home nine miles from his father’s business.

En route, the forklift struck a car carrying four “hardworking” field workers on Philbric Road near Stowell Road, Foley said. 

“What was not clear was the defendant’s mind and body,” Foley said. “He had methamphetamine running through his blood as he drove the forklift backward as fast as it would go.”

Killed were Adolfo Pozos Carrasco, 16, of Santa Maria, and a passenger in the left rear seat, Casilda Diaz Pozos, 49, of Santa Maria. Both were declared dead at the scene.

Two other female passengers — Mayte Carrasco and Celiset Pozos, both of Santa Maria — suffered major injuries. 

“What you’re going to learn in this case is methamphetamine distorts good driving judgment and leads to risk taking,” Foley said.

Foley noted that the forklift lacked safety equipment such as a red triangle, and did not have an escort vehicle.

At least one of the victims was ejected from the car.

“Her head was crushed by the forklift,” Foley said. “Her face was unrecognizable.”

Foley said witnesses will testify that the forklift driver was going too fast, backwards, didn’t have control and lacked safety precautions.

Shortly after the wreck, Castillo told California Highway Patrol officers he had a beer at lunch a few hours before the accident and claimed to have taken a Vicodin. He later admitted snorting a line of methamphetamine a day earlier, although Foley said the timing of that would be disputed.

Castillo also allegedly told CHP officers after the accident, “I shouldn’t have had the pedal all the way down.”

Investigators used a series of factors to assess whether Castillo was impaired, including pulse rate and blood pressure, both of which were elevated, according to Foley.

“These are things about the body which can’t be concealed through effective acting,” Foley said.

A blood test showed Castillo had methamphetamine in his system, but no science correlates to the forklift driver’s level of impairment  at the time of the accident, he added.

“What you’re going to learn in this case is methamphetamine creates a driving impairment that is very distinctive,” Foley said.

In her opening statement, Castillo’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Sydney Bennett, said the drug recognition evaluation used by law enforcement is “too simple.” 

She also contended it employs a subjective analysis, and that law enforcement officers lack the expertise to make a medical diagnosis.

Bennett told the jury they would hear “quite a bit” of scientific testimony in the trial.

“The science does not support the assertion that Mr. Castillo was under the influence of methamphetamine,” she added.

The first witness, Martin Gamez Puentes, a truck driver for Acquistapace Farms, said he was in a nearby field filing a water truck when he observed the fast-moving forklift he estimated was going about 30 mph.

“The second thing was that he was going backwards,” the witness said through a court interpreter. 

Additionally, he noted the vehicle’s “forks” were raised to three feet, much higher than the six inches recommended when driving.

“I know that it’s dangerous,” Puentes said in response to the question from Foley. “On a forklift it’s dangerous.”

Puentes, who has taken safety courses related to operating forklifts, said accidents are more likely when the forks are elevated.

“I just saw it was being driven backward, it was going very fast and it was losing control,” he added.

He said he expected the forklift to crash into one of the nearby nearby canals.

While he didn’t see the crash, he said he heard the “blow” of the impact with a green Honda Civic.

“When I got there, I saw two bodies laying there with their heads destroyed,” he said. 

Fidel Sandoval, a ranch manager with Los Padres Berry Farms, also testified Monday that he saw the forklift driving on the road, and noted a lack of safety precautions, the usual height of the forks and the fast speed it was moving in reverse.

“We move them pretty slow, like 10 miles per hour, because they’re pretty dangerous,” he said, adding he was contemplating calling police.

He also said the forklift driver appeared to be looking down at the line in the road to guide the vehicle.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >