Driver in chase to stand trial in crash that killed 2

By Ray Huard

September 19, 2007

EL CAJON – A Mexican man who was smuggling undocumented immigrants through rural East County must stand trial for causing a head-on crash that killed two people and injured several others, a judge ruled yesterday.

Daniel Cardiola Lopez, 35, is charged with two counts of murder and two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence causing great bodily injury in connection with a June crash on county Route S2 near Ocotillo Wells.

El Cajon Superior Court Judge Louis R. Hanoian ordered Lopez held in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail pending an Oct. 2 hearing to set a trial date.

If convicted of all charges, Lopez faces a maximum penalty of 30 years to life in prison, Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh said outside the courtroom.

Witnesses testified that Lopez was fleeing Border Patrol agents at speeds up to 90 mph northbound on Route S2 shortly after 4 p.m. June 26 with six undocumented immigrants in the back of the red Dodge Dakota truck he was driving, and one in the passenger seat.

Border Patrol agents testified that they chased Lopez for about six miles. They said they gave up the pursuit after Lopez avoided a spike strip they put in the roadway and began driving erratically, crossing into the southbound lane or straddling both lanes of the two-lane road.

Two of the passengers in the back of the truck told investigators that they yelled for Lopez to slow down or stop but he ignored them, agents testified.

Rounding a blind curve, Lopez slammed head-on into a 2007 Toyota Corolla driven by Juan Herrerra of Valley Center, who was traveling with his wife to visit relatives in Mexicali.

“There was no time to get out of the way,