The driver of the semitrailer that crashed on Baseline Road last month and buried two cars in sand has been ticketed with careless driving resulting in injury and for driving a vehicle with defective brakes — an issue police say may have contributed to the accident.
But the truck driver, 71-year-old Robert Lara, of Denver, told the Daily Camera on Thursday that he was forced to make the last-second turn onto Baseline to avoid an accident while driving on Foothills Parkway.
"Some guy cut me off," Lara said. "I had to make a quick decision whether to run his ass over or try and make that turn."
Lara was headed north on Foothills Parkway at 5:39 p.m. Aug. 22 when he lost control of the truck — which is registered to him — while trying to turn onto eastbound Baseline Road, and veered into the westbound lanes, according to an accident report.
The truck flipped onto its side and spilled its load of sand onto two vehicles: a Subaru Impreza driven by Octavian Geagla, of Boulder; and a Toyota Highlander driven by Cheryl Fellows, of Boulder.
That caused three other vehicles behind them to crash, too.
Fellows told the Camera in an interview last month that she was able to get out of her car with the help from a passerby, while dozens of residents, police officers and firefighters shoveled and dug with bare hands to free Geagla from his car.
Geagla was transported to Boulder Community Health with fractured ribs and vertebrae, as well as abrasions, and was kept overnight before being released the next day.
Lara and Fellows also were taken to the hospital and released that day.
Boulder police spokeswoman Kim Kobel said the defective vehicle ticket was issued because a Colorado State Patrol trooper and certified truck inspector examined the brakes on the truck and found that seven of the truck's brakes were not adjusted properly.
The trooper said one of the brake shoes would not have even come into contact with the brake pad.
"There were a number of things that factored into (the crash), but it is likely the brakes did contribute," Kobel said.
Kobel also said witnesses told investigators Lara was traveling at a "high rate of speed."
But Lara said he was driving at the speed of traffic and that his load made his truck too heavy for him to have reached high speeds.
"I was just cruising along in normal traffic," Lara said. "No way in hell I could have reached even 40, for that matter."
Lara said that while he was driving on Foothills, an orange or red coupe cut in front of him and then stopped short of the intersection. That, he said, forced him right and into the turn lane onto Baseline Road, a turn he said he avoids because of how sharp it is.
"It was like he was playing chicken with me," Lara said of the other car. "That was not my turn. I never turn down that street."
Lara said as soon as he made the turn, he felt the truck leaning and knew he was headed into westbound traffic, where he tried to turn the semitrailer sharply to avoid hitting the cars head-on.
"Once I made that turn, I knew there was no way I could make it. It was too sharp," Lara said. "As I was headed toward those people, I was like, 'Oh my God,' and I turned the wheel really sharp.
"I knew at that point I was going to flip, and just tried to lay it on the side."
Kobel said no other witnesses reported seeing the coupe, but Lara maintains that it was the cause of the crash.
He said he plans on fighting the tickets in court.
"I've been driving since I was 18 years old and never had an accident like that," Lara said. "They're trying to make me look like the (expletive). But the burden's on me because I'm the damn truck driver."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitch Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org