June 19, 2024
A box truck going 76 mph rear-ended an SUV carrying a family of five.

Less than two hours after one of its drivers was involved in a crash that killed five people on a Colorado highway, a trucking company tried to buy insurance, according to court documents.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Colorado by a Wisconsin insurance company alleges the truck was not insured at the time of the wreck on June 13, 2022.

The crash — at 1:27 p.m. on Interstate 25 about 30 miles north of Denver – killed Halie Everts, 20; her fiancé, Aaron Godinez, 20; their 3-month-old daughter, Tessleigh; and both of Godinez’s parents.

At 2:49 p.m., Lucky 22, the now-defunct trucking company, made the request to add the involved truck to its policy, Artisan and Truckers Casualty Co. alleged in the complaint.

9News first reported the company’s insurance request.

The insurance claim comes amid serious questions about the safety history of the trucking company, based in the Denver suburb of Arvada.

“It’s been an onion,” said Grant Lawson, an attorney for the family. “We continue to peel back layer after layer and find out incredibly more horrendous stuff — from the top down.”

The family was driving to their home in Gillette, Wyoming. Near Mead, Colo., they encountered a backup on the interstate and slowed to less than 10 mph.

Jesus Puebla was going about 76 mph when his 1999 Kenworth T800 box truck rear-ended the family’s Ford Edge SUV.

A witness told investigators that Puebla was driving aggressively before the crash, including tailgating at high speed.

Puebla, then 26, was arrested in December and charged with five counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault. He also faces counts of careless driving, reckless driving, a commercial vehicle safety violation and for driving without a commercial license.

His case is set for trial in November.

Puebla, Lucky 22 and a California trucking company, Caminantes Trucking, all face additional lawsuits in state and federal court from family members of those killed.

Attorneys for the driver and companies declined to comment for this story.

The Lucky 22 truck was carrying U.S. Postal Service mail as a subcontractor of Caminantes, which is based in Long Beach.

Federal trucking records show Caminantes drivers previously operated trucks without a commercial driver’s license and employed drivers under 21 years old, among other violations. Caminantes had 92 trucks operating on U.S. roads and highways, Lawson said. None of their drivers were covered with insurance.

“There were so many opportunities to catch these things to prevent this and none of them happened,” the attorney said.

In 2021, a Caminantes truck was involved in a fiery fatal crash on Interstate 15 in Temecula. The box truck rear-ended a Prius that had slowed because traffic was stopped ahead. The car’s driver, an 18-year-old high school student, was killed. The truck’s driver was charged with murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

USPS continued its contract with Caminantes for months after the Colorado incident, 9News reported in November, even after learning the driver didn’t have a license. Postal officials finally terminated the agreement in February.

Lawson said he plans to add USPS to the federal lawsuit.

“It appears USPS did nothing to ensure it was hiring a motor carrier that was safe,” the attorney said. “Caminantes had an egregious history of safety violations … yet they continued to contract with them and hire them to ship US mail.”

A USPS spokesperson said he could not comment on pending litigation. Postal officials previously told 9News that “at the time of the issuance of the contract, the postal service received the necessary and required insurance validation by Caminantes Trucking.”

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