Driver to face trial for Escondido crash that killed two teens

An Escondido man must stand trial on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter for his alleged role in a T-bone crash that killed two 19-year-olds who were in a speeding car last spring, a judge ruled Monday.

Francisco Andres Alvarez, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges that, if convicted, could see him sentenced to upwards of 12 years in prison. He was in a Vista courtroom Monday for his preliminary hearing.

Authorities accuse Alvarez, who was headed north on Ash Street, of being under the influence of drugs while driving a Dodge Charger and running a red light at El Norte Parkway, slamming into another car about 11:30 p.m. on March 25.

The other car, a 2006 Ford Mustang, was going 87 mph, nearly twice the speed limit at the time of the crash.

Brandon “Brando” Noe Contreras, who was driving the Mustang, and Ana Lira, a passenger in the back seat, died at the scene. Another teen with them suffered life-threatening injuries.

In deciding Alvarez should face trial, Superior Court Judge Blaine Bowman pointed to evidence including “a fatal cocktail” of alcohol and drugs, as well as the speed of the Charger at the time of the crash.

“The court does find that combination of factors does rise to the level of gross negligence,” Bowman said.

Escondido police Officer Tyler Songer testified that data taken from Alvarez’s car showed he had slowed the Charger to 51 mph — 16 miles over the speed limit on Ash Street— less than a second before slamming into the Mustang in the intersection with El Norte.

Data from the Mustang showed it was speeding as it headed west on El Norte Parkway, Songer said. The speed limit for that stretch of El Norte is 45 mph.

The force of the collision tore off the driver’s side door of the Mustang.

Contreras was thrown from the car and landed in a nearby yard.

Alvarez was injured in the crash but was able to crawl out of the upside down vehicle. He was the sole occupant.

According to testimony, an Escondido police officer gave Alvarez a sobriety test shortly after the crash. The officer said Alvarez’s blood-alcohol content measured roughly .038 percent.

The legal limit for drivers in California is .08 percent.

Also, according to testimony, toxicology tests indicated that Alvarez had a combination of marijuana and cocaine in his system on the night of the crash.

The teen survivor in Contreras’ Mustang also testified in court Monday. Now 16, the boy said he and Contreras had been at a fast food place in San Marcos, where Lira asked them for a ride that night.

He said he doesn’t remember anything after about 11 p.m., roughly 30 minutes before the crash. The teen said his injuries included several broken bones, and that doctors had placed him in a medical safety ring called a halo for 13 weeks.

Parents of both teens who died in the crash were in court during the preliminary hearing. Ana Lira’s mother, Jessica Lira, dabbed tears as one of the witnesses described the aftermath of the crash.

The witness said he had to use the light from his cellphone as he and other good Samaritans searched for Contreras, who was missing from the driver’s seat.

Alvarez was arrested May 18, nearly two months after the crash. He posted $200,000 bail and is out of custody pending trial.

After the hearing, defense attorney Kenneth Elliott said the case is “a tragedy.”

“Nobody won in this,” Elliot said, adding that Alvarez “feels terrible about what happened.”

Alvarez is due back in court Oct. 1.

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