VILLA AHUMADA, Mexico (Border Report) – A Mexican judge has handed down a 12-year, 3-month prison sentence for a trucker who plowed into several roadside food stands, killing 10 people while under the influence of drugs a year ago in this town 80 miles south of Juarez.
Saul A.D., a semitruck driver, will also have to pay 6.5 million pesos ($383,000) to the families of the victims – including cooks, parking attendants and customers who died in the Sept. 7, 2022, crash. Another 17 people were injured and are eligible for damages, according to the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office, which announced last Friday’s ruling.
The incident shook residents of this bus-stop town on the highway between Juarez and Chihuahua City, known for its creameries and asadero-style cheese. But far from feeling closure, the sentence further frustrated residents and co-workers of the victims.
“I think that’s wrong. I’m not a lawyer, but if you kill one person, you get 30 to 40 years (in prison). Twelve years for taking 10 lives is too little punishment,” said Sergio Calderon, a food vendor at Union de Vendedores Benito Juarez. “As for the money, I don’t think he’ll ever have it. I don’t think he’ll ever pay it.”
Calderon said his cousin was among the victims. Others he worked with for 10 years or more at the roofed facility along Federal Highway 45 where motorists park and get their quesadillas, burritos or cheese in minutes to go, or step down to sit on folding chairs by folding tables.
“We knew each other since we were young. I saw them in the morning. I saw them in the afternoon. I saw them every day. It feels bad they are no longer here,” Calderon said.
Mexican authorities said Saul A.D. tested positive for amphetamines and meth after crashing first against parked vehicles and then careening into some stands. They also said he was speeding, and that bared another issue locals say is inviting further tragedies.
The town’s speed limit is 40 kilometers per hour (22 mph). Local authorities installed numerous additional speed limit signs along the highway and speed humps.
However, Border Report on Monday witnessed passenger vehicles and commercial trucks dart by the town’s entrance. Residents say that is still the norm.
“At first (after the accident), they passed through slowly. Now, it’s back to the way it was. Not all (vehicles), but most of them… look how fast that one’s going,” Calderon said, pointing to a semitruck passing in front of the stands. “The more time passes, the more they speed.”
Raul Garcia, another food vendor, agreed the sentence doesn’t do justice to the massive loss of life. “It’s like they gave him one year (in prison) for each life lost,” he said. “We will never forget. It was a tragic loss.”
He sometimes points visitors to a plaque with the names of the victims and a food cart with the name of an acquaintance, a young man named Omar whom everybody called “La Piña” (The Pineapple). The cart bears the exact time of the accident, 4:50 p.m., and the inscription “We loves (sic) you.”