The lives of a married couple from Washington state vacationing in Pismo Beach and a 19-year-old Oceano man struggling with a breakup convened in a tragic way Oct. 16.
Bruce and Marjorie Mallin — avid travelers who explored the U.S. and Canada in their recreation vehicle — were on a morning walk on Price Street near Marie Callender’s restaurant when a car came crashing through a fence from Highway 101 and struck them about 7:30 a.m.
In a matter of a few seconds, the 63-year-old man and 59-year-old woman were dead. Jerardo Iriarte, the alleged driver, was walking around dazed and in a state of shock, a witness described.
Iriarte had been trying to reunite with his ex-girlfriend. Minutes before the wreck, they’d talked at Marie Callender’s, where she was starting her morning shift; he’d knocked over a pie in anger at the restaurant because of her refusal to discuss the matter that morning, she told Pismo Beach police, according to a warrant.
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Police believed that Iriarte was trying to hurt himself in the crash but not to kill himself or hurt anyone else.
A witness estimated Iriarte’s speed to be about 100 mph, while Iriarte estimated he was traveling between 75 and 85 mph, police said.
After initially denying that he crashed the car to get attention, Iriarte told investigators that “maybe I was trying to get some attention.”
Iriarte isn’t suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash. He told police he’d had little sleep leading up to the events that morning.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and also faces legal enhancements of causing great bodily injury during the commission of a felony.
Iriarte is scheduled in court Jan. 19 for a pre-preliminary hearing, which is designed to gauge whether lawyers are ready to proceed with a preliminary hearing, which typically happens a few days after, to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to take the case to trial.
If convicted of the charges, Iriarte faces a maximum of 11 years in prison.