SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Four years after the death of their infant son, a local family will finally receive a $9.75 million settlement from the city of Sacramento.
“This chapter is over but, you know, the chapter is going to last forever for this family because of the tragedy and loss that they’ve endured,” said John Demas, the attorney representing the Saechao family.
On Dec. 17, 2013. Steve Saechao was driving westbound on I-80 with his 9-month-old son Raiden in his car seat. Traffic in the right lane had come to a stop. Suddenly, a vehicle slammed into the Saechao car from behind sending it right into a moving truck.
“There’s no braking; there’s no evasive maneuver,” Demas described. “[The driver is] proceeding the same speed at 63 mph throughout the entire sequence.”
Baby Raiden died in the hospital five days later.
“The loss is unspeakable,” Demas said. “The tragedy that they’ve gone through in losing a perfectly healthy 9-month old has left a hole in their heart that obviously can never be filled.”
The driver was identified as a Sacramento Police officer.
“He testified that he has no memory of the time that he got on the freeway up until the time after the collision,” Demas said.
The family was shocked when the Placer County District Attorney decided not to file criminal charges.
“I suspect that the fact that he’s a police officer probably had something to do with their decision not to bring charges against him,” Demas said.
So the family took the matter to civil court, where, according to Demas, the city of Sacramento denied again and again that the officer was on the clock. That is, until now.
“There’s some satisfaction in the city finally coming to realization and accepting the fact that he was in the course of his employment,” Demas said.
The City of Sacramento declined our request for an interview but sent us a statement saying:
“The accident was a tragic one for all involved. The City hopes that the settlement provides the family the resources and an opportunity for some closure.”
Demas says $9.75 million is a record settlement in a California infant death case. And while the money won’t bring Raiden back, the Saechao family plans to donate some of it to raise awareness about the danger of distracted driving.
Raiden’s parents declined our request for an interview, but his father said, “If we can share Raiden’s story and his tragic death with others, especially teenagers who are texting and driving, maybe we can save a life out there.”
The officer driving the vehicle has been with Sacramento Police Department for more than a decade and currently serves as a sergeant on the force.