1 dead, 5 hurt after high-speed chase in SJ

Suspect Bernardino Cuebas and the crash scene at North 10th St. and San Fernando Street in San Jose. (SJ Mercury and SJPD)

July 14, 2010 7:57:19 PM PDT
A horrific car accident in San Jose Tuesday has left one girl dead and her siblings hospitalized.

The 15-year-old girl died Wednesday morning, according to a hospital spokesperson. Her 12-year-old brother is in serious condition and their 6-year-old sister is in fair condition.

The children were all in a Mitsubishi that was broadsided Tuesday afternoon by a car that was fleeing a CHP officer. The officer spotted a Honda Civic that had ignored a sign that prohibited right turns on a red. When the CHP officer turned on his lights, the driver sped up and ran through a red light less than a mile away, crashing into the Mitsubishi carrying the three children and their mother.

The 15-year-old girl was thrown from the car at the intersection near Grace Community Center. Staff member Teresa Quijance was one of several people who rushed to the girl's side to help. Quijance felt for a pulse and says it was very weak.

"I felt her, she was still there; I felt her warmth and I wanted her to know that she wasn't alone and to hang on," Quijance said.

The driver of the fleeing car has been identified as 24-year-old Bernardino Cuevas. The CHP was chasing him on the red light violation and fleeing an officer but it turns out Cuevas was wanted on a parole violation. He had been released from jail on April 1 after serving time for methamphetamine charges. Court documents also indicate Cuevas had pleaded no contest in 2007 to felony charges for vehicle theft and reckless driving that put people in danger.

A number of people who either witnessed the accident or the tragic aftermath questioned why the CHP pursued a suspect, claiming it was a high speed chase through the residential area.

"Public safety is our number one priority but people must remember that when a suspect runs from an officer, there is usually a reason for that and we also have an obligation to apprehend that person in the name of public safety," CHP spokesperson Sgt. Trent Cross said.

The CHP will be investigating whether the officer acted properly. The director at Grace Community Center does not want to point fingers but says a young girl lost her life.

"To have a high speed chase going on in downtown San Jose is ridiculous, especially right before rush hour," Lisa Blevins said.

Cuevas will be arraigned on Thursday. Since the 15-year-old girl died, he could be face additional charges for that.

There are two investigations going on: one on the initial crash and an internal CHP one that will look into if proper procedure for a pursuit was followed. The pursuit lasted only about a minute and witnesses say the cars were going about 80 mph.


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