Georgia man ordered to be tried in crash that killed two

Posted: July 17, 2014

Prosecutors say 20-year-old Gabriel Sánchez of Rocky Face, Ga., was drunk and driving more than 80 m.p.h. on I-95 in South Philadelphia when his Nissan Armada plowed into a stopped Jetta with its blinkers flashing, resulting in the deaths of two men.

Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon on Tuesday agreed, ruling there was enough evidence for Sánchez to stand trial on charges of vehicular homicide, drunken driving, and other offenses in the April 6 death of his passenger, Emmanuel Chavez-Chavez, 33, and the driver of the Jetta, Aaron Carbajal, 25, of Philadelphia.

State Police Trooper Thomas Falcon testified at Sánchez's preliminary hearing that he arrived at the scene at 2:55 a.m. on southbound I-95 across from Lincoln Financial Field.

On the shoulder, perpendicular to the right lane was the white VW Jetta, its trunk crushed almost into the passenger compartment, its front lights and emergency flashers on, according to Falcon.

Carbajal's body was across the rear seat with his legs stretched forward into the driver's seat. Based on testimony, it appears Carbajal pulled over to rest but did not make it all the way to the shoulder. Falcon said the Jetta's transmission was in park, the back of the driver's seat fully reclined, and lights and flashers on.

About 200 feet south, in the center lane, was Sánchez's red Nissan Armada SUV with its front end crushed, Falcon said. Sánchez was in the passenger seat cradling an unconscious Chavez-Chavez, who died later at a hospital.

Assistant District Attorney Kirk Handrich said a blood test showed Sánchez had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 percent, almost twice the legal threshold in Pennsylvania of 0.08 for driving while intoxicated.

Defense attorney Gerard K. Schrom argued that other factors might have contributed to the crash, including that Carbajal's blood alcohol level was .278 percent and that his car was stopped in the right lane of the freeway.

In questioning another state trooper, James Mooney, an accident reconstruction specialist, Handrich showed a video of the accident taken by a security camera outside Lincoln Financial Field.

Narrating the video, Mooney said that Carbajal's car is seen to stop at 2:47 a.m. Four minutes elapse - and 46 cars safely pass the stopped Jetta - before Sánchez's SUV plows into the smaller car's rear, sending it spinning down the highway.

Sánchez remained in custody on $600,000 bail, and DeLeon denied a defense request for lower bail after Handrich argued that Sánchez had a history of arrests for drunken driving.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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