A tragic scene unfolded on Saturday afternoon when a member of the U.S. Navy, driving under the influence, lost control of the pickup truck he was driving, and it plunged off Coronado Bay Bridge in San Diego and made a 60-foot drop into a crowded park. Authorities say that least four persons were killed and nine others injured when the truck flew through the crowd at a festival beneath the bridge.
The crash occurred a little after 3:30 p.m. PT, and California Highway Patrol officer Jake Sanchez said that police have arrested 25-year-old Navy member Richard Anthony Sepolio on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) when he crashed his pickup truck through the guardrail on the Coronado Bridge. Reportedly, he had been on his way from the Coronado Island naval base, where he had been stationed when he and the pickup truck went rolling off the bridge and into a crowd of people at Chicano Park in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.
The La Raza Run motorcycle festival had been set up in Chicano Park, 60 feet below the bridge and near the 1900 block of Julian Avenue. Typically, the festival has a tribute to fallen riders along with live music, food and art exhibits.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune,four people were killed almost instantaneously while nine others, two of whom are said to have suffered major trauma, were injured. The arrest of the Navy man was for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as well as for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing injury or death as well as other charges related to significant injury of others. The arresting officers transported him to a local hospital where he remains in critical condition.
Richard Sepolio had been alone in his vehicle and was listed as one of the persons who were critically injured when the pickup truck crashed through the Coronado Bridge and crushed a vendor tent at the motorcycle festival in Chicano Park. Those who rushed to the aid of the driver found him in a state of shock from the crash and fall, and he asked them to contact his commander at the Navy base. The exact ranking or job description of the U.S. Navy member facing the DUI charges has not been made clear.
The police are also withholding the identity of the four persons killed, but they did state that the deceased victims were a 62-year-old male and a 50-year-old female from Chandler, Arizona, and a man, 59, and woman, 49, who were both from Hacienda Heights in Los Angeles County. Lee Swanson, a spokesman for the city’s Fire-Rescue Department said that Sepolio injured several persons on the ground and seven of the injured were reported to have suffered from minor to moderate injuries.
Witnesses to the tragic scene Richard Sepolio created because of his DUI said that the pickup truck, which had Texas license plates, landed on a booth that was set up for La Raza Run – a motorcycle ride used to close out the festival celebrations at the Chicano Park and which typically draws hundreds of participants. The New York Daily News reported that Chase Dameron said witnessing the crash was like watching a movie. The truck Richard Sepolio was in just missed the stage where a rockabilly band was set up and playing to land on the booth and kill the four people.
“I saw a truck come right off the freeway. It was going so fast it flew over the stage and landed in front of the stage on a tent, a booth that was set up. It was like a movie. It was like in slow motion – where it hit, there was dust and debris and instant chaos and panic. People running crazy.”
Pieces of car parts flew all over the grounds, and photos of the scene showed Sepolio’s truck to be a mangled mess with its hood popped open near one of the pillars of the Coronado Bridge.
Police and paramedics descended on the crowded park as reports of multiple casualties were reported. Before they arrived, bystanders had already rushed to aid the driver and victims of the crash, pushing the overturned pickup driven by the Navy man upright and offering first aid to the victims of the crash. Some have said that of the persons who were killed, two had been motorcyclists in La Raza Run while the other two had been tending a booth, selling T-shirts at the Barrio Logan event.
Emergency crews closed the I-5 north access to the Coronado Bridge as investigators examined the scene and while the eastbound lanes remained open, the westbound side was kept closed until approximately 11 p.m. A memorial was held for the persons killed.
[Featured Image by Take Photo/Shutterstock]