On May 6th, Espinoza was driving on Interstate 1-8 in Yuma County, traveling at approximately 65 mph when he ran into at least three police cars and two fire trucks. Department of Public Safety Captain Tim Huffman was in one of those vehicles.
One witnessed said it looked like Espinoza’s truck was tossing patrol cars around the road as if they were “toys,” according to the CBS News.
When emergency crews arrived they used the “Jaws of Life” to extricate Huffman from his badly damaged patrol car. Other officers ripped out the windshield of his patrol car to try and save him, but he was pronounced dead on the scene, the Huffington Post reported.
Huffman was in one of the several emergency response vehicles parked along 1-8 responding to a prior traffic accident when Espinoza slammed his 10,000 lb. empty tanker truck into the vehicles. At least three patrol cars and two fire trucks were damaged.
Following the accident, Espinoza told police that he had taken his eyes off the road briefly to look at a passing truck. He also said he never uses his cell phone while he was driving because it was against company policy, but dashcam footage and a search or his phone records showed otherwise.
In the video obtained by the Arizona Daily Star, Espinoza’s face and his hands are obscured by his wallet, which was strategically placed to conceal the fact that he was using his cell phone at the time of the accident.
The video footage also shows Espinoza’s cell phone flying out of his hand as he grapples to regain control of his tanker. An officer can be seen standing in the road waving his arms before jumping out the trucks pathway.
Records show that Espinoza was looking at photos of scantily clad women on Facebook just prior to the deadly truck accident and had spent time perusing YouTube and escort sites while driving in the past.
Espinoza is facing over 20 felony counts including one count of second-degree murder. He entered a not guilty plea.
Federal law forbids commercial vehicle drivers from using a cell phone behind the wheel, but we all know that when it comes to their cell phones people don’t pay attention to the law. They don’t care, nor do they think of the consequences until it’s too late, until they have killed someone.
This accident has inspired Arizona lawmakers to take steps to reduce accidents like this. The state has no laws banning cell phone use for active motorists, but that could change. Rep. Steve Farley (D.-Tucson) has repeatedly introduced legislation that would it make it a primary offense for drivers to use cell phones for texting or checking social media behind the wheel. That means a driver can be pulled over and ticketed if an officer sees then using their cell phones.