DULUTH, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man has been charged with vehicular homicide after police say he was one of two drivers racing at speeds above 100 mph (160 kph) in a Sept. 4 crash that killed five teens on a suburban Atlanta highway.
Gwinnett County police said Emanuel Rene Esfahani, a 20-year-old Lawrenceville man, turned himself in Tuesday and is charged with five counts of vehicular homicide. He's also charged with reckless driving, racing, speeding, unsafe lane change and not wearing a seatbelt.
Esfahani was being held in jail with no bail set Wednesday. A clerk in Gwinnett County Magistrate Court said no appearance before a judge was yet scheduled and no lawyer was listed in court records. The Associated Press could not immediately find a phone number associated with Esfahani's address.
Investigators say Esfahani was racing a pickup truck driven by 18-year Hung Nguyen about 4 a.m. on Labor Day on Georgia 316 when the two came upon a slower vehicle. Police say they believe Esfahani, driving an Infiniti G35, swerved into the right-hand emergency lane on a curving flyover ramp that merges onto Interstate 85 to pass the vehicle, while Nguyen passed it on the left.
But Esfahani came upon a truck stopped in the emergency lane and swerved left, striking Nguyen's Toyota Tacoma. The truck then began to spin and roll, investigators say, plunging over a concrete barrier and 37 feet (11.3 meters) to the ground, coming to rest upside down on an adjoining exit ramp.
The wreck killed Nguyen and four passengers: 17-year-old Katy Gaitan of Atlanta, 16-year-old Ashley Gaitan of Atlanta, 17-year-old Coral Lorenzo of Atlanta and 19-year-old Abner Santana of Lawrenceville. The Gaitan sisters and Lorenzo were students at Lakeside High School in DeKalb County.
One passenger in the Tacoma survived. Jonathan Reyes, 18, sustained minor injuries and was released from the hospital a day later.
Two passengers in the truck were ejected in the crash, investigators said. One had not been wearing a seatbelt, but investigators could not determine if the second passenger had been wearing one.
A third driver on the exit ramp struck one of the victims ejected from the Tacoma, Gwinnett County police Capt. Ryan Winderweedle said. He said the driver of the third vehicle was injured when he pulled over and tried to get off the roadway by climbing over a wall on a bridge. The third driver fell about 25 feet (7.6 meters) into a creek, breaking multiple bones.
The crash happened about 23 miles (37 kilometers) northeast of downtown Atlanta.