An 18-year-old man is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Monday on suspicion of driving under the influence after authorities say he rear-ended a van in southern Nevada, causing a crash that killed five Southern California family members and injured two others.
Jean Soriano of California was being held without bail Sunday in the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas pending the hearing. He also was booked Saturday on charges of failure to decrease speed or use due care, and driving without a driver's license.
The Clark County coroner's office said the five victims were three men, a woman and a girl. They were identified as Genaro Fernandez, 41, of Norwalk, Calif.; Raudel Fernandez-Avila, 49, and Belen Fernandez, 53, both of Lynwood, Calif.; and Angela Sandoval, 13, and Leonardo Fernandez-Avila, 45, both of Los Angeles.
Family members told KABC-TV in Los Angeles that the three men were brothers who were returning from visiting their ailing father in Denver.
"It's very difficult. I didn't expect this at all. I'm still shocked," Genaro Fernandez's son Genaro Fernandez Jr. told the TV station." I just hope the guy that did this, during time, he learns his lesson in jail."
The victims were among seven family members who were in the van, authorities said. The other two were taken to the University Medical Center in Las Vegas with non-life-threatening injuries. Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Loy Hixson said Sunday that both people had been upgraded from critical to serious condition.
According to the patrol, Soriano's sport utility vehicle struck the van from behind early Saturday, causing both vehicles to roll on Interstate 15 near the Arizona line, some 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Soriano and his 23-year-old passenger were treated at the medical center and released Saturday.
Authorities believe Soriano was returning from a visit with family in St. George, Utah, to his home in California at the time of the wreck, Hixson said. They had not released his hometown or any other names as of late Sunday afternoon, and it was not immediately clear whether Soriano had an attorney.
While talking to authorities at the scene, neither the suspect nor his passenger initially admitted to being the SUV driver, Hixson said. But Soriano eventually said he was behind the wheel when the crash occurred.
A truck driver told authorities that he saw the suspect and his passenger initially walk away from the scene but eventually return.
At least a couple of beer bottles were found in the SUV, Hixson said, and troopers performed a blood-alcohol test on Soriano at the hospital. The results won't be known for a couple of weeks, he said.
The van was carrying a couple, their children and some aunts and uncles, Hixson said. Only two of the seven people in the van were wearing seatbelts. The five who were not buckled in were ejected, but one survived.
"Going on my experience, there should have been seven seatbelts in the van, one for every occupant," Hixson said, adding the wreck demonstrates the importance of buckling up.