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Leaders, victims’ family call for changes to Coronado Bridge

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SAN DIEGO – Chicano Park leaders were joined Thursday by a family member of two victims in Saturday’s deadly crash to demand safety improvements for the Coronado Bridge.

Jacob Contreras, nephew of Cruz and Annamarie – the Arizona couple that was killed when a pickup truck plunged off the Coronado Bridge and crashed into a crowd attending a biker rally at Chicano Park – spoke at a news conference near the memorial about the changes he and others want to see made to make the bridge safer.

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“The community of San Diego has been nothing but fantastic and loving,” Contreras said. “We cherish everything that the community has done for my family.”

The Contreras couple had three of their own children and were also foster parents. Cruz, 52, worked with troubled teens. Annamarie, 50, worked with students with special needs.

Also killed in the crash were Andre Banks, 49, and Francine Jimenez, 46, of Hacienda Heights.

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“Meeting with the families today – the Banks family and the Jimenez family – it’s been even more difficult because we’ve begun to share the drama of losing loved ones,” Contreras said. “And we have huddled together, we’ve talked together, we are going to lean on each other to get through this together.”

Chicano Park leaders say the crash was not the first time a vehicle or debris have gone off the bridge and landed in the park, but it’s the first time people have been killed as a result.

“That bridge has to be taken care of immediately,” said Tommie Camarillo of the Chicano Park Steering Committee. She is putting pressure on Caltrans and state officials to find a way to improve bridge safety.

“So if there’s an accident up there, it won’t end up down here,” Camarillo said. “But I’m not saying it was just the fault of the bridge. It was that dude’s fault. He should never have been driving in that kind of condition and at that speed -- that’s ridiculous.”

The 24-year-old driver, Richard Sepolio, was arraigned from his wheelchair Wednesday in a hospital conference room on four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and two DUI counts. He faces nearly 24 years in prison if convicted and had his bail set at $2 million.

The nephew declined to comment on the circumstances of the case and wanted to use Thursday to remember the victims in the crash.