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Big rig driver gets 7 years in prison for deadly Angeles Crest crash

September 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The driver of a runaway big rig that caused a deadly crash at a La Canada Flintridge intersection in 2009 has been sentenced to seven years and four months in prison.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Darrell Mavis made his final ruling for Marcos Costa Thursday after hearing from victims of the tragedy. The Mass. resident was also ordered to pay $87,204 to a victim's restitution fund and $23,762 to the city of La Canada Flintridge.

Costa, 46, was convicted July 29 of two counts each of involuntary manslaughter and gross vehicular manslaughter stemming from the deaths of Angelina Posca, 12, and her father, 58-year-old Angel Jorge Posca, of Palmdale, along with three counts of reckless driving causing injury in connection with the crash on April 1, 2009. The 10-man, two-woman jury acquitted him of two counts of second-degree murder.

Costa was driving a 25-ton, double-decker car hauler through the San Gabriel Mountains when his brakes failed and he barreled down Angeles Crest Highway through an intersection, striking several cars and plowing into a bookstore.

During Thursday's hearing, family and friends of the victims spoke before Costa was sentenced. They spoke on how devastated this tragedy has left them.

"What this man has taken from these two lives is irreplaceable," said Giovana Posca, the victims' sister and daughter. "I will never have another minute with either of them. It wasn't an illness or a natural disaster that took my dad and little sister's life, it was negligence. It was something that could have been prevented."

Before Costa was sentenced, he stood up and faced the Posca family and asked them for forgiveness. Posca's family took the center of the courtroom, most looked away as Costa spoke.

"I wish I was in the place of Mr. Posca and Angelina," he said through an interpreter, adding that he prays for the family every day.

George Posca's widow, who attended every day of the trial, was not present Thursday. Her family and friends did not comment after the sentencing, but a family friend said that they are all OK with the sentencing.

Costa faced a maximum of about nine years in state prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Carolina Lugo. Mavis gave Costa about 1,200 days of credit for jail time already served and good-time credits. His lawyer says he will probably serve around two years.

At trial, prosecutors said Costa was warned by an off-duty firefighter that Angeles Crest Highway was too dangerous for the big-rig. But Costa ignored the warning and continued down the curvy road even though his brakes were smoking. Prosecutors say Costa poured water on them instead of waiting for them to cool.

A post-crash inspection revealed that five of the 10 truck brakes either weren't working or not adjusted correctly. The five working brakes showed signs of overheating or cracking on the pads, according to court documents.

Costa, a Portuguese-speaking native of Brazil, testified during the trial that after losing the brakes: "I was desperate. I was in a panic. I didn't know what to do."

Costa's lawyer argued he was following directions on his GPS to get through the mountains and saw no warning signs. The attorney also blamed the lack of a safety ramp for runaway trucks for the accident.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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