With Costa trial over, what will be done about Crest safety?

While the memories of the deadly runaway truck collision on the Angeles Crest Highway that killed two, injured several and left a 25-ton big rig sitting inside a local bookstore have begun to fade for some, life will never be the same for the family of the victims.

Marcos Costa, the driver of the runaway double-deck car carrier, could end up on probation or serving little to no time after a jury on Friday found him not guilty of second-degree murder. Or he could serve years in prison.

The jury did convict Costa of involuntary manslaughter, gross vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving for the April 1, 2009 crash. In that crash, his big rig, having lost its brakes during the steep Crest descent, slammed into a car containing Palmdale resident Angel “Jorge” Posca, 58, and his 12-year-old daughter, Angelina, killing both.

Yanette Sofia Posca, wife and mother, respectively, of the victims, said after the trial ended that she felt bad for Costa and his family as well.

“When I first heard, I was sad, because you know what, whatever the verdict would have been, it’s not going to bring them back,” Posca said. “Two families are torn apart now.”

Still, she made it clear that her family would not forget the man they consider responsible for the accident.

“He’s going to have to carry this for the rest of his life,” she said. “We’ll never get over it, not ever.”

Costa’s big rig went through the intersection at Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge during the evening rush hour and crashed into the Flintridge Bookstore.

Peter Wannier, owner of the business, was present when Costa’s truck slammed into his store, and said he felt like the trial had come to the rightful conclusion.

“I think that’s a reasonable verdict, from what I know about it,” said Wannier. “He deserves to answer in some way for what he did and what he failed to do.”

Costa’s attorney, Edward Murphy, said outside the Los Angeles County Superior Courtroom in Pasadena last Friday that with Costa already having served 20 months, he could come out of the Sept. 8 sentencing hearing without having to serve any further time in custody. The maximum sentence he could receive would be nine years in prison.

“He’s feeling very good, he gave me a hug,” Murphy said of his client.

Superior Court Judge Darrell Mavis also ruled last week that Costa could remain free on bail until the sentencing date, over Deputy District Attorney Carolina Lugo’s objections.

La Cañada Flintridge Mayor David Spence said he hopes Costa won’t get off too easily for his crime.

“It was a tragic accident, and I think it could have been avoided if the guy had had a lot more common sense to what was happening,” said Spence. “I think that he should serve time for being a careless and reckless driver, and how much that’s going to be, I don’t know.”

Spence said he thought Costa deserved to serve time for ignoring the warnings he had been given on Angeles Forest Highway by off-duty firefighter Juan Palomino about his truck’s smoking brakes and the danger of the road.

“He used the excuse that he didn’t understand. Well, by God, if he’s in this country and he’s driving a truck like that, he should be understanding what’s going on,” said Spence. “I’m not real empathetic to his story.”

Wannier, however, said he thought that the verdict was of secondary importance to ensuring safety on Angeles Crest Highway and in La Cañada Flintridge in the future.

“The important thing that happened has nothing to do with this man or this verdict, the important thing that happened was the reaction to eliminate danger,” Wannier said, “to make highway safer for the future.”

Several months after the accident, Caltrans instituted a maximum weight limit of 9000 pounds on Angeles Crest Highway. The highway previously had not had a weight limit — a fact that Costa’s defense attorney, Edward Murphy, had focused on during the trial. Angeles Forest Highway and Big Tujunga Road each had weight limits of 6,000 pounds set by Los Angeles County.

The Los Angeles County Public Works Department recently raised the weight limit on Angeles Forest Highway and Big Tujunga Road to 9000 pounds, said spokesman Bob Spencer. Spencer said they were moving from their previous limit to be consistent with Caltrans’ regulations, and that the timing with the verdict was purely coincidental.

Spence said he thinks the city, pushing Caltrans, had worked to make safety a priority after the accident, and that the community is looking forward.

“I think we’ve done our due diligence and are really trying to make the Angeles Crest area more safe,” said Spence. “I know everybody is very sorry that we lost two innocent lives; but I do think that it’s one of those things that’s behind us. We have to move on. That’s life.”

Wannier said he, too, is focusing on the future of the community.

“I’m always much more concerned about what the positive steps are and how our life will improve, rather than by trying to settle old things,” said Wannier. “I don’t think that this man represents a danger to our community.”

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