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An Anaheim truck driver was charged with vehicular manslaughter Friday after prosecutors say he caused a chain-reaction crash on the I-15 Freeway that killed a Redlands family of four.
George Leslie Pelonis, 60, was charged with one count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, with authorities saying he was traveling at an “unsafe rate of speed for the conditions that existed” on the freeway when he rear-ended an SUV, pinning its passengers between two tractor-trailer semi-trucks as they burned to death, said David Hidalgo, a supervising deputy district attorney at the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office.
The accident reportedly took place during stop-and-go traffic on the southbound I-15 near Jurupa Avenue about 12:30 p.m. Feb. 13. While other drivers reported traveling between 10 mph to 30 mph, Pelonis told authorities that he was traveling 42 mph Hidalgo said.
Prosecutors say Pelonis struck an SUV driven by Ryan Villalpando, 32, a football coach and school teacher from Moreno Valley. Also in the vehicle were his wife Veronica, 29, his son Matteo, 4, and his infant daughter Bella Rose, 7 months.
The truck driven by Pelonis and the SUV were engulfed in flames, Hidalgo said. Pelonis was able to escape without injury, but the Villalpando family reportedly died at the scene.
The collision impacted eight vehicles, prosecutors said, with the occupants of the other cars suffering minor injuries.
Pelonis is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 13 in the Rancho Cucamonga division of the San Bernardino County Superior Court.
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