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Taft Midway Driller - Taft, CA
  • Update: Man killed in crash was driver's brother

  • Police at first thought victim was the driver, but now say his brother was behind the wheel in alcohol related crash
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  • The man injured Sunday evening in a car crash on Highway 119 has died and police say the driver who could face felony vehicular manslaughter charges is the victim's brother.
    The name of the dead man has not been released.
    But the man believed to be the driver has been identified as Leobardo Lopez-Martinez, 23.
    He is the dead man's brother, Taft Police Lt. Pete Aranda said, and being held on felony drunk driving charges as police continue their investigation into the crash
    There were beer bottles in the car and some scattered in the grass near where the car came to rest after impacting the tree. Officers said the crash is definitely alcohol related
    The crash took place about 7:30 p.m. on the west side of Highway 119 just north of Kern Street.
    Witnesses said the car was northbound on the highway when it started sliding and went off the roadway before crashing into the tree.
    Two victims, believed at first by Taft Police to be passengers, escaped with minor injuries.
    But the third victim was unconscious and not breathing when passers-by arrived on scene.
    Two, Curtis Ashmore and Chaney Burris, began administering rescue breathing and CPR and revived the victim.
    He stopped breathing a second time but was again revived with the help of a Kern County Sheriff's deputy.
    The victim was airlifted to Kern Medical Center but died overnight from his injuries.
    Taft Police officers at the scene were at first were told the critically injured man was the driver, but subsequent investigation led to the arrest of Lopez-Martinez.
    Kern County Superior Court records show he was charged with drunk driving in November 2011 but failed to appear for his arraignment.
    Records also show he was convicted of driving without a license in August 2010 and fined $700 and placed on 3 years probation.

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