Moapa, Nev. • An 18-year-old accused of driving drunk in a Nevada crash that killed five California family members was cleared of charges Wednesday after DNA evidence showed his friend was the one driving the SUV.
Jean Ervin Soriano had a blood-alcohol percentage of 0.12 when the SUV rear-ended a van carrying seven people to the Los Angeles area after an Easter weekend visit to a sick relative in Denver. Soriano faced seven felony charges of driving under the influence causing death or substantial injury in the pre-dawn crash March 30 on Interstate 15 about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
But the investigation later determined that he wasn't behind the wheel. Alfred Gomez, 23 originally thought to be a passenger was the driver. Nevada Highway Patrol investigators never drew blood from him because they thought he was a passenger, so it is not known if he had been drinking.
Troopers said Soriano later acknowledged that he was driving. A justice of the peace dismissed the charges, which also included two misdemeanor counts of failure to decrease speed and driving without a license.