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Truck driver gets 16 years in prison for crash that killed 5 bicyclists

An Arizona box truck driver who plowed into bicyclists on a stretch of Nevada highway last December, killing five and injuring four, was sentenced Wednesday to a minimum of 16 years in Nevada state prison for driving under the influence of methamphetamine causing death.

Jordan Alexander Barson, 45, of Kingman, Arizona, apologized Tuesday, during the first day of an emotional two-day sentencing hearing in Las Vegas, asking forgiveness as he spoke by video from the Clark County Detention Center, CBS affiliate KLAS-TV reported. His attorney, Damian Sheets, said Barson did not intend to cause harm.

Highway Crash Bicyclists Killed
In this Dec. 10, 2020, file photo, Nevada Highway Patrol investigate the scene of a fatal crash involving multiple bicyclists and a box truck along U.S. Highway 95 southbound near Searchlight, Nev.  L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP, File

"Knowing I caused the deaths of five people and severely hurt two others is unbearable most of the time," Barson told the court. "I want you to know that I'm so truly sorry for what I've done. I know you will carry this pain forever, and it breaks my heart that I caused this."

Highway Crash-Bicyclists Killed
This Mohave County Jail booking photo shows Jordan Alexander Barson. / AP

Clark County District Court Judge Bita Yeager on Wednesday  acknowledged Barson's remorse but stuck with the sentence agreed upon when he pleaded guilty in April to two counts of driving under the influence resulting in death.

"You had no business driving," Yeager told him.

The judge paused, near tears, spoke the names of the five bicyclists and cited the effect of their deaths had on "mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren."

"Their lives are forever affected because of your poor choice," she said.

Killed were Las Vegas residents Erin Michelle Ray, 39, Gerrard Suarez Nieva, 41, Michael Todd Murray, 57, Aksoy Ahmet, 48, and Thomas Chamberlin Trauger, 57.

Bicyclists Jose Vasquez and Jerome Ducrocq were seriously injured.

KLAS-TV reports that on Tuesday, the court heard from some of the victims' families including Douglas Murray, who lost his brother Michael.

"There are no words to express what you have done to our family, what you did to my brother," he said.

The judge also ordered Barson to pay nearly $60,000 in restitution to victims.

Barson's plea deal avoided trial on 14 felony charges that could have kept him behind bars for the rest of his life if he was convicted.

Prosecutors said blood tests showed he had nine times the amount of methamphetamine in his system that would indicate impairment.

Barson, a commercial truck driver, wept after the Dec. 10 crash on U.S. 95 between Boulder City and Searchlight.

He told investigators he fell asleep at the wheel while driving his regular work route between Las Vegas, the Colorado River town of Bullhead City, Arizona, and Kingman.

The flat-faced truck plowed into bicyclists trailing a Subaru Outback support vehicle shielding them from headwind as a group of about 20 cyclists made an annual 130-mile ride from Las Vegas through scenic desert in Nevada and California.

Michael Anderson was one of the cyclists who wasn't injured. 

"We do this Nipton Loop every year, no problems," Anderson told Las Vegas TV station KVVU. "This year was just at the wrong place, at the wrong time."

Anderson, who was a Las Vegas police officer for 22 years before retiring last year, was emotional at the crash scene.

"I've seen stuff as a police officer in public service ... when it's your friends, I've never seen that," Anderson said. "It's the worst thing I could ever see in my life."

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