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Lawyer: Livestreamed, deadly crash caused by blown tire

By The Associated Press
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MERCED, Calif. (AP) — The defense attorney for a teenage driver accused of driving drunk while livestreaming the crash that killed her younger sister says a mechanical problem may have caused the accident in California.

"We have reason to believe the accident was caused by wear and tear on the tire, causing it to blow out," said Ramnik Samrao, the court-appointed lawyer for Obdulia Sanchez. "That's where we are focusing our investigation."

Sanchez was driving a car that veered onto the shoulder of the road on the outskirts of Los Banos in central California on July 21. Authorities said she overcorrected, causing the vehicle to swerve and overturn into a field, ejecting and killing her 14-year-old sister, Jacqueline.

Prosecutors said Sanchez was live-streaming on Instagram while driving and that the video, which includes images of the 18-year-old taking her hands from the steering wheel, will be a key piece of evidence in the case.

Sanchez also recorded herself standing over her sister's body, saying she was sorry.

"This is the last thing I wanted to happen, OK? ... Rest in peace, sweetie," the teen says. "If you don't survive, I'm so (expletive) sorry."

Police said medical records from the hospital where the teen was treated show she was legally drunk.

Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to six felonies, including gross vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving.

Her father, Nicandro Sanchez, told the Merced Sun-Star (http://bit.ly/2uAONdr) his family continues to struggle with the loss of one daughter while the other sits in jail.

"We don't believe it. We think it's not true," he said on Friday. "It's hard for us. It's not easy to live with these things."

Samrao, a deputy public defender for Merced County, said he and Sanchez have watched footage from officer body cameras when they arrived at the crash scene.

"It was heartbreaking to be there and watch it and the way she reacted to everything and cried to everything, the same way she does on the body camera (footage)," Samrao said.

He and Sanchez also watched a Spanish-language news story on her sister's funeral.

"It was the same thing. She was really broken up about it," Samrao said.

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