Drunk driver convicted of murder in SLO County crash that killed 14-year-old

A Santa Maria man could face life in prison after he was convicted of murder for killing a 14-year-old while driving drunk in San Luis Obispo County in 2021, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

On March 27, 2021, Earnesto Nava Herrera, 27, collided head-on with another vehicle while speeding the wrong way on Highway 101 in Nipomo.

After the nearly three-week trial, the jury found Herrera guilty on all counts, including second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit and run causing death, driving under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury and driving on a suspended license, according to the office.

“This is a terrible, yet completely avoidable tragedy,” Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth said in the news release. “We are committed to the aggressive prosecution of those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in our community and will charge murder when appropriate.”

What happened in the crash on Hwy. 101

Leading up to the deadly crash, Herrera was driving his Chevy Tahoe when he hit a metal pipe fence and knocked over a tree while driving drunk, according to the office.

He then drove away from the scene of the crash and entered Highway 101 the wrong way, using the Tefft Street off-ramp, where he almost struck a vehicle before the driver was able to swerve out of the way, the office said.

Herrera then continued to drive in the wrong direction, accelerating south in the northbound lanes of Highway 101 before crashing head-on into another vehicle, killing a 14-year-old passenger and seriously injuring two others.

Herrera’s vehicle was badly damaged in the crash, and he fled the scene on foot.

1 killed, 3 injured in suspected DUI hit-and-run crash in Nipomo

About an hour later, the CHP found Herrera crawling near the highway using a helicopter’s infrared technology, the office said.

About two and a half hours after the crash, Herrera’s blood alcohol content was measured at 0.164%, more than double the 0.08% legal limit to drive, according to the office.

It was not the first time he had been arrested for a DUI.

Just three months before the crash on Dec. 31, 2020, Herrera was arrested for driving under the influence . Law enforcement officers informed him then that driving drunk is “extremely dangerous to human life” and he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving intoxicated, the office said.

Herrera’s sentencing is scheduled for March 5 in Department 6 of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court by Judge Michael S. Frye, according to the District Attorney’s Office.