(With a report by Romina Austria)
Filipinos in the United States have expressed shock after a Delaware court this week sentenced to one year of probation a truck driver who passed out behind the wheel of his vehicle and killed a Filipino-American father and his four children in a horrific crash.
Holding a picture of her deceased husband and their four children, Mary Rose Ballocanag cried in court as she sought, to no effect, a maximum 14-year prison sentence against the driver Alvin Hubbard III, 46.
“I want you to look at their faces. So when you look at your children, you will see the pieces of my children and my husband,” Mary Rose told Hubbard during his sentencing after he pleaded guilty to the reduced charges against him.
Hubbard was driving an F-350 pickup truck on Delaware Route 1 on 6 July 2018 when he swerved across the median and ploughed into oncoming traffic.
Killed on the spot in their totalled minivan were Mary Rose’s husband, Audie Trinidad, 61; and daughters Kaitlyn, 20; Danna, 17; and twins Melissa and Allison, both 13. All were from New Jersey.
The mother was the only survivor in the accident as they came home from a family vacation in Ocean City, Maryland. Mary Rose had to endure at least eight restorative surgeries but was obviously still emotionally and physically battered when she appeared in court.
She had lost the use of her hands and legs and had been unable to return to her work as a nurse.
A welder for Aledak Metalworks, Hubbard was driving the company car with a co-worker who also sustained injuries from the accident.
Government prosecutors asked the judge for a one-year prison sentence but the judge ordered Hubbard to go on probation for one year, with the possibility of serving out 14 years if he failed to satisfy the terms of the probation.
“Sounds like another privileged white man getting it easy just because the victims were Asians,” Robert, a Filipino nurse in California, told the Daily Tribune. He said that many in the Filipino community were aghast over the sentence and are demanding that justice be served.
In court, Ballocanag and about 20 of their family friends wept. “His one life will never be enough for the five people he killed,” she was quoted as saying. “My physical pain is nothing compared to the mental pain and anguish of losing my entire family.”
It was after those words that she turned to Hubbard and showed him the photo of her deceased family.
Defense lawyer John Kirk blamed Hubbard’s alleged respiratory condition called cough syncope as the reason for his passing out behind the wheel.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, said Hubbard only slept five hours before the crash at the end of a full working day. They maintained there was no sign of “intentional or reckless conduct.”
“Many lives were ruined that day, including his,” Kirk said, referring to his client was belatedly diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Hubbard’s company had reached a confidential settlement with Ballocanag, according to reports.
He was charged with five counts of second-degree vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault, along with failing to obey traffic devices, driving across a median and inattentive driving.
Initially he pleaded not guilty but changed his pleading when the state lessened the charges to five counts of operating a vehicle causing death and five counts for second-degree and third-degree vehicular assault.