Trash truck driver arrested in 2019 fatal California wildfire

A man suspected of dumping a burning load of trash that sparked the deadly 2019 Sandalwood fire in Calimesa has been arrested by Cal Fire investigators, officials announced Monday evening.

Antonio Ornelas-Velazquez, 38, was arrested on Saturday, Feb. 13, in Desert Hot Springs, the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department announced. Ornelas-Velazquez was arrested on suspicion of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully causing a fire that causes great bodily injury. He was released on bail on Sunday.

Antonio Ornelas-Velazquez(Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department) 

The Sandalwood fire was caused on Oct. 10, 2019, by a burning load of trash that was dumped next to dry vegetation in windy conditions by the trash truck that Cal Fire said Ornelas-Velazquez was operating. The fire spread into dry vegetation and resulted in the deaths of two people, destroyed 72 structures, damaged 16 structures and burned more than 1,000 acres of vegetation.

Hannah Labelle, 61, and Lois Arvickson, 89, died in the fire. Labelle lived in the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park where numerous structures were destroyed.

In a statement, Cal Fire/Riverside said Ornelas-Velazquez was arrested “after hundreds of investigative hours.”

It wasn’t immediately known if Ornelas-Velazquez is represented by an attorney who can speak for him. In 2019, Sandalwood fire victims sued waste collection company CR&R alleging it was responsible for the fire because of the dumping of the burning load.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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