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3-year prison term for Santa Rosa man who fled fatal crash scene

A 57-year-old Santa Rosa man was sentenced to three years in state prison for fleeing the scene of a fatal crash on Highway 101 in 2017, Sonoma County District Attorney’s officials said.

Gregory Hernandez was convicted by a jury in May of felony hit-?and-run collision involving the death of Juanita Santana, 36, of Santa Rosa during a three-vehicle pileup on the highway in Santa Rosa, officials said.

Prosecutors said Hernandez failed to help two women, including Santana, who was pinned under the car and the driver who had multiple broken bones. California law requires drivers involved in crashes that result in injury or death to stay at the scene.

The crash occurred on a rainy night, Nov. 15, 2017. Santana’s Mercedes-Benz hydroplaned across the highway and crashed into the center median on southbound Highway 101 near the Steele Lane entrance ramp. She and a passenger got out of the vehicle to seek help, prosecutors said.

Also driving south, Hernandez’ Honda Civic came upon the crashed Merecedes and “was unable to avoid the car and struck it,” pushing the Mercedes into Santana and the other woman and knocking them over, officials said. A third vehicle rear-ended Hernandez’s Honda, pushing the Mercedes onto Santana, pinning her on the ground.

“After being hit by the third car, Hernandez got out of his Honda, lit a cigarette, walked up to the Mercedes driver who lay begging for help, turned, and left,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Witnesses testified during the trial that both women could be heard pleading for help, officials said.

Hernandez, whose driver’s license was suspended at the time of the crash, was arrested by police about a quarter-mile away and said he was “freaked out” because he was driving illegally and by the dangers of the highway crash scene.

Other good Samaritans helped first responders lift the Mercedes off the woman, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Santana died about a week after the crash from her injuries.

During sentencing in Sonoma County Superior Court Wednesday morning, Judge Chris Honigsberg “expressed his shock at the defendant’s actions, which ran contrary to ‘basic human decency,’?” according to the District Attorney’s Office.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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