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Police want data from crash that killed couple in Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach Police Department officials filed a search warrant seeking to examine a device that could tell them how an Oceano driver was handling his car moments before a fatal crash in October.

Police sought the warrant to inspect a 2009 Toyota Corolla driven by Jerardo Iriarte and to retrieve information from an event data recorder, which stores data five seconds prior to a crash.

Iriarte, 19, was booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence after driving his vehicle off Highway 101 in Pismo Beach on Oct. 16.

Iriarte was arrested after crashing into Bruce and Marjorie Mallin — fatally injuring the married couple, who were walking along Price Street near Marie Callender’s restaurant. They were vacationing in the South County.

Iriarte initially told police he had fallen asleep while driving his vehicle on Highway 101 heading south, but he later admitted in a statement that he sought to harm himself, according to the warrant. Iriarte has posted $50,000 bail and has been released from County Jail.

Police said the recorder keeps track of such information as vehicle speed, brake status, airbag deployment and accelerator input five seconds prior to a crash.

Most new cars have these devices, including Toyotas, according to investigators.

But an Aug. 20 article in The Washington Post noted that the recorders have had problems with reliability, saying that Toyota officials themselves have questioned their accuracy because of inconsistent readings.

Iriarte’s car crashed through a fence and continued onto the sidewalk bordering the west curb of Price Street, where it struck the Mallins, police said.

A witness estimated Iriarte’s speed to be about 100 mph, according to the warrant.

But Iriarte estimated he was traveling between 75 and 85 mph before turning off the highway.

“The complete mechanical inspection as well as the search and forensic examination of the vehicle will yield data, information and evidence that will corroborate physical evidence located at the collision,” the warrant states.

The District Attorney’s Office hasn’t yet filed formal charges, but a tentative arraignment has been scheduled for Nov. 18.

Pismo Beach police spokesman Steve Weir said the department is still processing the information from the case and is working with the District Attorney’s Office as well as the CHP’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team.

Tribune reporter Cynthia Lambert also contributed to this report.

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