A Merced man charged with killing another man earlier this week in a suspected drunken-driving crash outside Delhi had a blood-alcohol level of nearly twice the legal limit, according to police reports obtained by the Merced Sun-Star.
Kevin M. Hernandez, 41, also was allegedly driving on a suspended license at the time of Sunday’s deadly crash, according to Merced County Superior Court records.
Hernandez was arrested Sunday after his 2006 Nissan Titan slammed into the guardrail on the overpass, flipped over the side and fell about 25 feet where it landed on its roof in the median of Highway 99 at Golden State Boulevard, outside Delhi, the California Highway Patrol reported.
A passenger in the Titan, 45-year-old Thomas J. Gonzalez, was thrown from the car during the crash and died on the median strip of the state highway, authorities said.
Two other men, Mike Rivera, 43, of Merced, and Jeremy Santos, 40, of Atwater, also suffered major injuries in the crash and were taken to area hospitals. Officers said Santos injured his ribs and head, and said Rivera’s face, arm and body had “multiple abrasions and contusions,” according to reports from investigators. Updates on their conditions were not available Wednesday.
Hernandez broke his wrist and was taken to the hospital before he was booked into the Merced County Jail, officers said.
According to CHP reports, Hernandez’s blood-alcohol level was measured at .14 and .131 percent. The legal limit for blood-alcohol is .08, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Investigators also said Hernandez failed to pass field-sobriety tests at the scene.
Officers said Hernandez told them he’d “had a couple of Bud Light beers earlier,” the report says.
Hernandez later told investigators that, just before the crash, he’d picked up Gonzalez and Rivera. He said he had been driving from Turlock to Merced. Santos was in the front passenger’s seat while Rivera and Gonzalez were in the backseat.
Investigators said Hernandez was heading south on Golden State Boulevard when he “made an unsafe turning movement” and crashed into the guardrail that borders the flyover bridge above Highway 99. The Titan went over the top of the guardrail and fell about 25 feet onto Highway 99, landing on its roof in the center median.
The Merced County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday charged Hernandez with gross vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving, both felonies, as well as a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license, according to Merced County Superior Court records.
It was unclear exactly when and why Hernandez’s license was suspended and details on that case could not be confirmed Wednesday.
Hernandez briefly appeared in court Wednesday before Judge Harry Jacobs but did not enter a plea. An attorney from the Merced County Public Defender’s Office was appointed to represent Hernandez. The judge also ordered jail staff to medically examine Hernandez and instructed the county Probation Department to prepare a bail-review report, according to court records.
He’s set to appear in court again Nov. 29.
Bail was set at $200,000. Hernandez remained in custody Wednesday at the Merced County Jail.
A name in this story has been corrected.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482