A Santa Maria man accused of driving under the influence following a three-car crash on Highway 154 that killed two people last December now faces 14 years in state prison after changing his plea Thursday afternoon.
Rigoberto Gracida, 30, pleaded no contest to one count of driving under the influence causing injury and also admitted to the special enhancements of causing great bodily injury to four people -- Antonia Bautista Santiago, Aurelio Salvador Zaragoza, Hamilton Diaz Bonilla and Rocael Antonio Pedro -- all from Santa Maria.
He also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license.
Sentencing has been set for July 19 in Santa Maria Superior Court's Department 6. Under the Watson murder rule, if Gracida were to be arrested for a fatal DUI in the future, he can be charged with murder.
Gracida's felony complaint alleges that he had a blood alcohol content level of 0.1. at the time of the incident.
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Just before 2 a.m. Dec. 17, 2017, Gracida was traveling eastbound on Highway 154 near Zaca Station Road at an unknown rate of speed, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Gracida reportedly allowed his car to cross into oncoming westbound traffic before crashing into a 2001 Honda Accord, traveling westbound, on the S-curve. The driver of the Accord was identified by officials as Bonilla, 35, whose passengers included Pedro and Ricio Arroyo Cortes, also from Santa Maria.
According to the CHP, the impact caused the Nissan to roll onto its roof and it was struck behind by an oncoming 2000 Dodge minivan driven by Zaragoza, 43, whose passenger was Santiago.
Extensive extrication was required to get all injured victims out of their cars, according to Santa Barbara County Fire officials.
Bonilla and Santiago were pronounced dead at the scene. Zaragoza sustained major injuries and Rafael sustained moderate injuries, according to officials. Gracida sustained minor injuries, was treated and then arrested on suspicion of DUI.