LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Federal investigators said “systemic deficiencies” with how Nevada agencies and courts share information led to a devastating crash in 2022 that killed nine people.
Gary Dean Robinson, 59, of North Las Vegas, was behind the wheel of a Dodge Challenger when he ran a red light at 103 mph at the intersection of Commerce Street and Cheyenne Avenue, crashing into a minivan carrying a family of seven. Robinson had cocaine and PCP in his system at the time of the crash, investigators said.
The collision happened on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. According to court records, Robinson had pleaded guilty just days earlier for speeding up to 10 miles over the limit on Dec. 9, 2021. He paid a $150 fine. Records the 8 News Now Investigators obtained reveal Robinson was actually traveling 19 miles over the speed limit before the officer cited him on a lesser charge.
Though he was stopped several times for speeding, Robinson’s driving record included just one documented speeding ticket, the NTSB reported. The speeding tickets were lowered to other violations, records the 8 News Now Investigators reviewed indicated.
“One of the things I find most distressing in this case is the driver’s history as a repeat offender,” NTSB Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said. “In the 17 months preceding the crash, Nevada law enforcement agencies issued speeding citations to the driver five times, but because his driver records were inaccurate, he was never identified as identified. Never held accountable, despite being the subject of several enforcement actions.”
Seven of the crash victims were traveling together in the minivan at the time of the crash: Fernando Yeshua Mejia, 5; Adrian Zacarias, 10; Lluvia Daylenn Zacarias, 13; Bryan Axel Zacarias, 15; Gabriel Mejia-Barrera, 23; David Mejia-Barrera, 25; and Jose Zacarias-Caldera, 35.
During a meeting Tuesday, the NTSB board said Robinson’s impairment from drugs and his excessive speed led to the crash. They also cited Nevada officials’ failure to address Robinson’s repeated traffic infractions.
“Also, contributing to the driver’s repeated disregard for safety and traffic laws, despite numerous citations was the state of Nevada’s failure to reduce the driver’s speeding recidivism due to systemic defecencies, including routine plea agreements that alter of drop violations, inaccurate driver record, failure to accurately track ciations and delays in reporting convictions,” NTSB board member Michael Graham added to the group’s final report.
The board voted to recommend that vehicle manufacturers install speed alert software in all of their vehicles. It also suggested states like Nevada implement better procedures to share traffic citation data.
In May 2017, Henderson police charged Robinson with speeding 11-to-20 miles over the speed limit. The charge was reduced to an illegal parking violation. A judge ordered Robinson to pay a $198 fine.
Because he failed to pay the fine, Robinson’s license was then suspended from December 2017 to January 2020, records showed.
In August 2020, North Las Vegas police stopped Robinson for driving 50 mph in a 45-mph zone. The charge was amended to a parking violation following a $346 fine.
In November 2020, North Las Vegas police stopped Robinson again, this time for driving 67 mph in a 45-mph zone. Robinson pleaded nolo contendre, meaning he accepted the fact prosecutors had enough evidence to sway a jury to convict him, but he did not admit guilt. He was ordered to pay a $604 fine.
Just three months later in February 2021, Nevada State Police stopped Robinson for driving 80 mph in a 65-zone. He again pleaded nolo contendre. The fine was $643.
In August 2021, police in Las Vegas charged Robinson for driving 55 mph in a 35-zone. He pleaded guilty and the charge was reduced to a parking violation. A fine was leveled but then vacated.
Though the officer knocked Robinson’s charge to a lesser speeding charge — from 10-to-19 over the speed limit down to zero-to-10 over — Robinson was still required to go to court. The ticket would too end up reduced to an illegal parking violation with a $150 fine.
The tickets all involve several agencies and several jurisdictions, including municipal and justice courts, records showed. Had Robinson’s record been updated correctly, with pending cases included on a docket, the crash may not have happened, the NTSB board members said Tuesday.
Robinson’s driving record shows no active demerit points and no moving violation other than the 2017 ticket, documents said.
“All of the citations were apparently not visible to the courts once it was plead down to a parking violation,” Homendy said. “Also, some of the electronic information is not coordinated. That needs to be fixed by the state. Other states have the same issue.”
In 2021, the Nevada Legislature made speeding tickets a civil violation, meaning defendants no longer have to go before a judge. The process is streamlined online and no longer carries jail time.
Even though he died in January 2022, the 8 News Now Investigators found several warrants out for Robinson’s arrest for failing to pay several of those speeding-related fines. The new law quashed warrants for unpaid fines, including Robinson’s.