As a teenage wrestler attempted to drive his coach to the hospital, the coach began to choke him, the teen testified Wednesday, causing a rollover accident that seriously injured a 10-year-old passenger.
John Gilbert Martinez, 57, of Guadalupe, faces seven charges, including five felonies, for allegedly causing the October crash on Thompson Road in Nipomo.
Deputy District Attorney Lindsey Bittner said Martinez was under the influence of prescription pills and a potentially toxic level of methamphetamine when the accident occurred.
On Wednesday, the 16-year-old driver, referred to in court only as Anthony, testified during a preliminary hearing in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. According to his testimony, Martinez was his coach and family friend, who often drove him to wrestling practice. On Oct. 19, he said, he saw Martinez take an unusual amount of pills before they went on to pick up two other wrestlers. Those wrestlers were brothers identified as Jason, 13, and Elijah, 10, of Santa Maria.
Before they picked up the two younger boys, Anthony testified, he suggested they go to a hospital.
“I figured he had too many pills in his system,” the teen testified.
When Martinez refused to go to a hospital, Anthony insisted on driving the car, which was owned by the coach’s mother. After picking up the two younger boys, Martinez continued to ingest pills, Anthony said, causing the teen to again suggest going to a hospital. At one point, he said, Martinez got out of the car and began walking away. But, Anthony testified, he feared his coach would overdose, so he forced him into the car, at one point slamming him to the ground in a wrestling takedown.
“We went to this neighborhood … and Johnny started acting crazy,” testified Jason, the older brother.
After Anthony forced Martinez into the backseat, he told the two other boys to restrain the coach as Anthony drove toward Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria. Martinez ordered Anthony to slow down as he worked to free his hands, Anthony testified. Martinez began to assault the driver while the car was moving at about 65 mph, Jason said.
“He grabbed a seatbelt and started choking Anthony from behind the driver’s seat,” he testified.
At some point during the struggle, Anthony testified, Martinez knocked both of his hands from the steering wheel, causing the car to veer toward oncoming traffic. At that point, he over-corrected, and the car flipped and rolled roughly four times.
Just before the accident, Jason remembers, his little brother was trying to buckle his seatbelt, which had become unbuckled during the struggle with Martinez. The car came to a stop upside down, the two testified. Elijah was thrown from the vehicle. When he first saw the unconscious boy, Jason said he thought his brother was dead.
“I dropped to my knees and started crying,” he testified.
Anthony said he tried to shield Jason from the ghastly sight of his brother’s mangled body.
“Part of his arm was off the body,” he said. “I could see the bone of his right arm.”
Elijah’s severed hand had to be re-attached, Bittner said. He also suffered a collapsed lung and a broken pelvis.
The hearing continues Thursday.