Nemias Garcia-Velasco’s facial burns from a fiery crash he caused have healed. But his friend and co-worker is gone after suffering what a prosecutor called a “horrible death” in the July crash.
Garcia-Velasco, 32, was sentenced Friday to 10 to 12 years in prison for motor vehicle homicide after he drove drunk and crashed a work van off the Interstate 80/680 interchange. Garcia-Velasco was driving 100 mph and lost control of the van, which hit a guardrail. The van then flipped and caught fire.
Garcia-Velasco’s blood-alcohol content was .243. He later told police he had consumed 12 beers before the wreck.
Silvano Torres, 58, who was riding unrestrained in the back of the van, died at the scene. His wife, two daughters and son live in Mexico and wrote letters to the judge. Although Torres lived far away, the family stayed close through many video phone calls.
Garcia-Velasco and Torres were friends and worked as roofers together, said Allyson Mendoza, an assistant public defender. When the crash occurred, she said, Garcia-Velasco attempted to help Torres get out of the fiery van, but the flames spread too quickly.
“He is absolutely and extremely remorseful for what happened,” Mendoza said. “He’s lost everything, and he knows that. He has to live with the fact that he killed his best friend, and he has been grappling with that.”
Jesus Gonzalez, 16, who was in the front seat, survived without major injuries.
Garcia-Velasco will serve five to six years, based on Nebraska law that cuts most sentences in half. He gets credit for 210 days he already has served in jail. He had faced a maximum of 20 years in prison.
He may receive additional jail time in federal court because of pending charges for illegal re-entry into the country, said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine.
After serving his sentence, Garcia-Velasco will be deported. He originally is from Mexico.
Prosecutors have said Garcia-Velasco has been removed from the United States seven times — five voluntary returns in 2005 and after two deportation hearings, in 2009 and 2011.
At Friday’s sentencing, Douglas County District Judge J. Michael Coffey told Garcia-Velasco that his actions were “reckless (and) grossly negligent.”
“Once you are deported,” the judge told him, “don’t come back.”