Juan Omar Diaz Olivares driver of propane tanker charged with 23 counts of murder, property crimes in Mexico City

Juan Omar Diaz OlivaresHe was released from the hospital in Mexico City on Tuesday afternoon where he had been recuperating from his injuries received in the accident that caused 26 deaths, dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec and taken under heavy guard to the Centro de Readaptación Social “Sergio García Ramírez” Chiconautla (CERESA) in Ecateoec, Mexico.

Juan Omar Diaz Olivares, 35, was the driver of the 2012 Kenworth T-600 pulling a double trailer propane tanker that crashed and exploded on May 7 at kilometer 14 of the Mexico-Pachuca highway.

He now stands charged with 23 counts of murder, and will answer to other charges surrounding the injuries to 36 residents of the community of San Pedro Xalostoc where the accident occurred as well as be held responsible for millions of dollars in damage to the infrastructure, loss of more than 30 homes and vehicles.

In a word, Diaz Olivares is being made a scapegoat to shield the government and big business from liability.

Charges were placed against Diaz Olivares within days of the accident, May 10, to be exact after a hasty investigation concluded that the accident was a result of the drivers incompetence and reckless actions. A Judge granted the Attorney Generals office an arrest warrant based on those assumptions.

His preliminary hearing was held on Wednesday afternoon but the Judge, Dolores Garcia Nava, halted the arraignment due to the absence of the defendant who condition prevented him from be taken to the courtroom. The arraignment was resumed later in the afternoon in the infirmary of the prison with Diaz Olivares present.

Requests by defense attorneys to have Diaz Olivares returned to the hospital for further treatment was denied by the presiding Judge. The drivers injuries are still so severe, both legs broken and burns over 13% of his body, mainly face and hands, that they were unable to fingerprint him upon arrival at the prison for his internal id card.

DRIVERS FIRST STATEMENT

Federal Courtroom #1 in Ecatepec.In his first public statement since the accident, Juan Omar Diaz Olivares told the Federal Court Judge that a small commercial van, commonly known as a “combi” crossed out of his lane and hit the second trailer causing him to swerve violently. The driver explained he lost consciousness as the fire engulfed the cab of his tractor.

Evidence shows the van struck a safety valve on the trailer, breaking it and causing release of the gas into the atmosphere. A spark from the collision ignited the gas which caused the explosion. It was determined that the shock wave of the explosion reached a radius of 500 meters and the heat wave that followed was more than 3000 degrees celsius.

The SCT, Mexico’s DOT has affirmed from the beginning that the motor carrier and the driver had all required licenses, certification, training and inspections as required by Mexican law.

DRIVER “PRESUMED” TO BE SPEEDING, INCOMPETENT, RECKLESS & FATIGUED”

That was the presumption presented by the Governor for the State of Mexico, Eruviel Avila, shortly after the accident and while the investigation was just getting underway.

It’s laughable to listen to this politician babble. He bases his claims on analysis at the scene by experts in “mechanical analysis and criminal acts” and by statements of witnesses and neighbors that the driver showed “clinical signs of stress and fatigue”. Can someone explain that last part to me please?

The Governor also said he has a hypothesis that the driver was speeding, lost control and overturned the second trailer.

Accident scene, Ecatepec MexicoThe lawyers for the driver testified in the hearing that the driver was traveling 85 kph (52.1mph) when the accident occurred. They will ask for a reduction or removal of charges based on this and other evidence in future hearings.

In what is perhaps the most telling gesture of the attempts to make the driver the scapegoat in this tragedy, the Mexican Association of Liquefied Gas Distributors (AMEXGAS) which first came out as standing behind the company and assuring the people that the company would stand good for compensation for their losses, is now backpedaling and disassociating itself with this motor carrier, in an attempt to protect TEMOGAS, a nationwide propane distribution company.

The motor carrier the driver worked for was Transportes Migar which was pulling the double trailer combination bearing the logo TEMOGAS. But according to the association, it was just bearing the logo of TEMOGAS and had no other association with the company.

“In this case it is incidental Termogas was involved, it’s just your logo that is there. Termogas as such had nothing to do with it, is an issue between Transportes Migar and Metropolitan Gas”, Octavio Perez, CEO of the association in an interview with Radio Formula said Wednesday

The next hearing for Diaz Olivares is scheduled for Monday, May 27, 2013 at 0900 and we’ll update if anything new emerges from the hearings.
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This post is part of the thread: Termogas Tragedy – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.