Runaway truck's driver takes the stand

In testimony Friday that was set to continue Monday morning, the driver of the runaway truck that killed two people in La Cañada Flintridge in April 2009 after its brakes went out on Angeles Crest Highway recounted parts of that journey leading up to the fatal crash.

Marcos Costa, 46, said through a Portuguese translator that he did his best to follow a route prescribed by a witness who flagged the truck down on Angeles Forest Highway, but due to his poor command of English may not have understood all the man said — including warnings about the steep terrain he would face and evidence that his brakes were overheating.

“I don’t remember him saying anything about the brakes. If he did, I didn’t understand,” Costa said of off-duty firefighter Juan Palomino, who testified earlier in the trial. “I did not understand everything he was saying. I understood he said ‘alternate route’ because I heard him talk several times about the tunnel [they were approaching]. I asked him to draw a map.”

In fact, even after Costa originally passed the turnoff specified by Palomino and managed to make a u-turn in a parking lot on Angeles Forest Highway, he chose to proceed along the route towards Angeles Crest Highway marked by Palomino rather than drive back up to his starting point near the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway.

Costa said that when he made the u-turn he noticed smoke coming from one of the truck’s wheels and poured water on it before continuing on his way.

“I was trusting the route that person had drawn for me, and the route had shown to take Big Tujunga Canyon to Angeles Crest Highway, and… I remember him saying 'take care, be careful.’” Costa said.

The day’s testimony concluded with defense attorney Edward Murphy showing jurors video that corresponded to Costa’s route down Angeles Crest Highway, and asked Costa to narrate his recollection of what he had done at points along the road leading up to the crash.

“I was just asking God to help me, I didn’t know what to do at that point,” said Costa of the moment he realized the truck’s brakes had stopped working as he passed the snow gate at the entrance to the Angeles National Forest.

Court adjourned before the video reached the highway’s terminus at Foothill Boulevard.

Costa’s testimony will resume Monday morning and be followed by cross-examination by the prosecution.  

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