Police report: SDG&E driver's view blocked by GPS in crash that killed woman, injured 2 girls

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego Gas & Electric driver had his view obstructed by a GPS device when he fatally struck a Shelltown woman and injured two young girls, according to a police report.

The San Diego police report, which was forwarded to the City Attorney's Office for review last week, recreated the crash that occurred when an SDG&E driver pulled out of an alley and onto the 3900 block of Cottonwood Street.

On Jan. 22, Ana Herrera Rodriguez, 39, was struck and killed by an SDG&E truck as she tried to protect her 5-year-old daughter Anahi Herrera and her daughter's friend Jaslene Arias.

Days later, investigators concluded that inattentiveness on the part of the utility worker, identified as Gerald Louis, led to the crash that killed Rodriguez and injured the girls, according to SDPD officials.

Investigators believe Louis was a distracted driver who did not take "due care for the safety of any pedestrian in the roadway."

The 32-page traffic collision report also indicated the driver had a piece of illegal equipment blocking his view. In a photo, a large GPS device is seen attached by a suction cup below the rearview mirror.

A five-and-a-half inch wide TomTom GPS "clearly obstructed the forward field view," the report stated.

"There's still responsibility and liability. Law enforcement found the driver to be at fault; that means SDG&E is at fault, and it just should really be a lesson to everyone that don't put anything on your windshield," said attorney Todd Macaluso, who has filed a civil lawsuit against the utility on behalf of Jaslene Arias, one of the injured girls.

It was initially believed the driver was distracted by a cellphone. While that later turned out to not be the case, Macaluso said the claim is still viable, especially with the new information.

According to the report, Louis was "visibly shaken" after the crash and "began to cry" as he told officers he saw a little girl run past some trash cans into the street, and a woman chasing her and yelling. Before he had a chance to stop, Louis told police he felt his vehicle "going over something".

However, investigators found that as the truck emerged from the alley, Rodriguez -- who was holding the hands of both girls -- crossed Cottonwood Street and the driver never saw them.

"... and I think that this police report, based on the reconstruction, the witness statements, clearly indicates that wasn't the case; they were all together holding hands, crossing the street when this occurred," said Macaluso.

Another factor in the crash was the fault of the victims, who were not in a marked crosswalk, the report stated.

Macaluso told 10News he agrees the crash was an accident. However, he said since it happened in an SDG&E truck, the utility is responsible.

"SDG&E is responsible for the accident of their employees, and I don't think it'll ever get to a jury, the case really should be resolved," said Macaluso.

10News contacted SDG&E to ask if the driver's GPS was company issued or if it belonged to him.

It is against California law to mount a GPS device in the center of the car's windshield.

SDG&E officials issued the following statement after 10News' story aired Thursday:

"San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) learned that the San Diego Police Department has concluded its investigation of the accident involving our employee and Ana Herrera Rodriguez. Contrary to previous incorrect media reports, the police department concluded there was no cell phone use by our employee while driving, he did not run a stop sign, and was not speeding. Our employee was driving between 15-20 miles per hour.

The police report concluded that our employee may have been distracted by having sun in his eyes but the company and our employee dispute that. The report also concluded there was a GPS device mounted in a way that it might have been an obstruction to the driver's vision. The police report listed other factors not associated with our employee.

Regardless of the cause, this was a devastating accident, both for the family and friends of Mrs. Rodriguez and to SDG&E and our employee. This tragic accident has shaken our company to the core. Safety is at the foundation of who we are as a company. We will continue to focus on safety, using the recent incidents as opportunities for all of us to have conversations about vehicle safety both at home and at work."

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