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CHP recommends charges in fatal October Hwy. 116 crash

The CHP said Thursday a San Dimas man caused a fatal Highway 116 crash that killed a Santa Rosa woman in October.

In its report to the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office, investigators recommended the man — Gilbert Freeth, 56 — be charged with manslaughter without gross negligence, said CHP Officer Jon Sloat.

Freeth was driving at an unsafe speed for the conditions, Sloat said, when he slammed into a car driven by Maria Juana Flores, who was stopped at the highway's intersection with Madrone Avenue.

The impact sent Flores' car into the path of an oncoming big rig that crushed her Honda sedan, killing her instantly.

Freeth said at the time of the Oct. 16 crash, said: “I have no idea what happened. I just saw a flash, a puff of smoke, that's it, all I remember.”

The crash prompted Cotati and county officials to press Caltrans for safety improvements at the intersection — where, a month later, a 17-year-old girl died in another crash.

In such cases, it is routine for the CHP to recommend charges in the event of a vehicle code violation, Sloat said.

“It's up to the DA to look at it and say yes or no,” he said.

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