Prosecutors not sure if driver who hit car will face any misdemeanor, felony charges

  • A cross and teddy bear has been set up at the site of the accident that killed 5 people on Highway 101 North at the Airport Blvd. exit in Santa Rosa. (The Press Democrat / Crista Jeremiason ) 1/25/07

Investigators are working to determine what crimes, if any, occurred last Friday when one car rear-ended another on Highway 101, causing a fiery crash that killed five people and severely burned a 5-year-old boy.

The CHP said it may be weeks before investigators determine whether there is evidence that Ryan Karr, 26, of Windsor acted illegally or with criminal negligence when his Mitsubishi coupe rear-ended a stopped Honda Civic during rush-hour traffic just north of the Airport Boulevard overpass.

Karr, who voluntarily submitted to alcohol tests the night of the crash, hasn't been cited or arrested in connection with the crash. Officers said he was cooperative and remorseful at the scene and has accepted counseling from law enforcement chaplains.

Karr reportedly told officers he wasn't paying attention when his car struck the Honda, which caught fire and trapped six people inside - a grandmother, two young brothers, their mother and two aunts.

Only 5-year-old Christian Flores Carlos survived. He is being treated for severe burns at a Sacramento hospital.

Killed were Maria Lopez Camacho, 54, Fernando Flores Carlos, 7, and Almadelia Mendera-Basurto, 16, all of Windsor, and Carmina Solorio, 23, of Mexico. The boys' mother, Edith Carlos Medina, 23, of Windsor, was pulled from the burning wreckage along with Christian, but died the following day.

CHP spokeswoman Officer Barbara Upham said investigators are talking to witnesses, looking into Karr's history and checking all aspects of the crash before determining whether to recommend any criminal charges.

The results will be forwarded to the District Attorney's Office, which will determine whether criminal charges are warranted - most likely some form of vehicular manslaughter.

A prosecutor and an investigator from the District Attorney's Office were at the scene offering legal support, Assistant District Attorney Larry Scoufos said.

"They wouldn't necessarily arrest somebody that committed a misdemeanor if they thought there weren't enough facts to establish at that time that a felony offense had been committed," he said. "Unless we can establish gross negligence, with no alcohol or drugs onboard, the only other offense is a misdemeanor."

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