A big-rig truck driver who crashed into the back of a minivan in south Orange County, killing three young siblings, was sentenced Friday to one year in jail and five years of probation.

Jorge Miguel Romero, 38, of Apple Valley pleaded no contest in August to three misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter involving criminal negligence. Romero was accused of driving at an unsafe speed on the 5 Freeway in Mission Viejo in May 2007 when his truck crashed into the minivan, killing Ladera Ranch siblings Kyle Coble, 5, and his sisters, Emma, 4, and Katie, 2.

Romero told police he was traveling 55 to 60 mph in the southbound slow lane when traffic stopped. He said he couldn’t stop in time to avoid hitting the minivan.

Prosecutors said Romero was inattentive, did not keep enough distance between his truck and traffic and hit the brakes too late to stop.


“Our goal from the beginning was to hold Mr. Romero responsible for his part in this tragedy,” said Jaime Coulter, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case. A lawsuit brought by the family against the California Department of Transportation for defective roadway design is pending, he said.

The children’s mother, Lori Coble, and grandmother, Cynthia Maestri, were badly injured in the crash and hospitalized for days.

-- Paloma Esquivel