clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Utahn admits his drunken driving killed 6 in U.S. 40 crash

SALT LAKE CITY — A dump truck operator accused of killing six people while driving drunk on U.S. 40 has admitted to some criminal charges as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Under the terms of the agreement, Jamie Don McKenzie, 42, has agreed to pay restitution to each of the six men's families, said deputy Wasatch County attorney Case Wade.

McKenzie, of Heber City, entered guilty pleas in 4th District Court Wednesday to three counts of automobile homicide, a second-degree felony, court documents show. Three identical charges were dismissed as well as two counts of DUI, a third-degree felony, as part of the plea bargain.

McKenzie was hauling dirt midday on Oct. 19 when his truck crossed the median near Jordanelle Reservoir and vaulted over the cable barrier, then broadsided a pickup truck carrying six laborers traveling to a work site, Utah Highway Patrol troopers reported.

Three men were thrown from the pickup, and another three were still inside when the dump truck crushed the cab.

Efrian O. Cardenas, 62, of Salt Lake City, was driving five workers home after finishing a job. All six were killed on impact. Several were from Honduras, Wade said.

Brothers Frankie Chacon, Walter Chacon and Raul Chacon died in the crash, as well as their cousins, Jose Navarro and Alan Zuniga, according to KTVX.

McKenzie's blood alcohol level was determined to be 0.29 percent, more than three times the 0.08 percent limit in many states and well above Utah's new 0.05 percent threshold, Wade added.

Under 2015 justice reforms in Utah, the recommended sentence for the three counts he pleaded to would not differ much from the penalty for convictions on each of the original charges, Wade said, so prosecutors offered the plea bargain.

The men's families' main concern, Wade noted, was having their bodies returned home.

"Their focus was on their family and their loss and grieving as opposed to anger, which is what I think a lot of us would feel," Wade said.

After the crash, troopers reported finding an open bottle of liquor and an open beer in the dump truck. McKenzie, who was driving a truck with a Heber City construction company logo on the door, told officers he knew he had been in a crash, but he did not recall details, a police affidavit states.

Two women in a Jeep also suffered broken bones when they were clipped by the dump truck and rolled, coming to rest upside down, the UHP said.

McKenzie has a history of driving drunk or with open containers dating to 1998, court records show. His attorneys did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.

In a separate domestic violence case, McKenzie pleaded guilty to assault and intoxication in October and was ordered to undergo a substance abuse evaluation and complete recommended treatment, court records show.

The three counts he admitted to Wednesday each carry a possible sentence of at least one year and up to 15 years in prison.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 29.