Teen driver who caused deadly, fiery crash in Virginia is sentenced to 5 years in prison

The driver of a black Nissan Altima was traveling south on Route 28 when he crashed into the semi, causing it to overturn, and then crashed into a Toyota Prius, the sheriff's office said. (Courtesy Loudoun County Fire and Rescue)

An 18-year-old driver who authorities said rear-ended a semitruck in September 2023, causing a fiery deadly crash, has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, according to local media reports.

Cesar Yepez was driving a semitruck carrying food products southbound on Route 28 near Sterling Boulevard, when a speeding Nissan Altima driven by Jose Padilla Espinosa hit him from behind, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

The truck overturned and caught on fire. Bystanders rushed in to pull Yepez from the flames.

But two weeks later, the 33-year-old father from Centreville, Virginia, died from his injuries.

According to NBC Washington, Padilla Espinosa was driving as fast as 111 mph before initially hitting the semitruck.

In court Thursday, Padilla Espinosa asked Yepez’s family for forgiveness, according to NBC Washington, which also spoke to Yepez’s widow Brianna about her 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.

“The kids are good. They’re good. They know about daddy not being here, but they’re strong, and we’ll get through it,” she told NBC Washington.

After the crash last September, WTOP spoke to one of the good Samaritans who tried to rescue Yepez.

“I heard the driver yelling for help,” Mark Pembleton said. “He was screaming, ‘I have kids, please help me.’”

Pembleton sustained serious burns to his arms and head.

“I looked down on my arms and saw how burned they were. The skin looked like it was melted off,” Pembleton said. “If it was any hotter, I don’t think I could have done it, because it was right at the point of where I thought I would instantly burst into flames.”

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