FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – A 19-year-old Arizona man is charged with manslaughter and other crimes in a wrong-way head-on crash in which four California residents were killed while driving to the Grand Canyon.
An Aug. 31 indictment charges Carlos Esteban Quinonez of Casa Grande with four counts each of manslaughter and endangerment, one of criminal damage and two of driving under the influence.
According to authorities, Quinonez was driving an SUV southbound in northbound lanes of Interstate 17 near Munds Park south of Flagstaff when it collided with the Californians’ vehicle at 4 a.m. on Aug. 18.
Those killed were 26-year-old Christen Ebert and 30-year-old Richard Chum from Stockton, 29-year-old Gary Sindhu from Lodi and 30-year-old Kouang Saefong from San Francisco.
Ryan Stevens, a Flagstaff attorney for Quinonez, said Thursday that his client “is still recovering from some serious injuries” and declined further comment on the case.
Multiple incidents of wrong-way driving, particularly those resulting in deadly crashes on Phoenix-area freeways, have raised concern in Arizona.
Wrong-way freeway crashes this year have killed at least 12 people, including those killed in the Aug. 18 wreck.
The state Department of Transportation is installing a camera-based pilot system on a 15-mile (24-kilometer) section of I-17 in Phoenix to detect wrong-way drivers and provide alerts to authorities and other drivers.
The Aug. 18 crash occurred the same week as a fiery wrong-way wreck in another rural stretch of I-17. Four people were seriously injured in that collision near Black Canyon City.
Both of those I-17 wrecks caused long traffic backups on the highway, which is the main route between Phoenix and Flagstaff and which crosses hilly terrain with few alternative routes.
Highway officials are studying ways to widen I-17, possibly by adding reversible lanes in the Sunset Point area.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.