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Woman Sentenced In Monterey Co. Crash That Killed 3, Injured 15

MONTEREY COUNTY (CBS SF) -- A woman was sentenced to six years in prison for causing a car accident in 2012 that killed three people and injured 16 on U.S. Highway 101, according to the Monterey County District Attorney's Office.

Superior Court Judge Efren Iglesia sentenced Vivian Ramirez, 42, of Gonzales, on Wednesday to the maximum term permitted by state law for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, Deputy District Attorney David Gross said.

Ramirez pleaded guilty to the charge she caused the deadly accident while driving south on the highway around 8 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2012, just north of King City in southern Monterey County, Gross said.

Her Ford Explorer SUV veered out of a southbound lane, crossed the 35-foot median and ran straight into oncoming traffic on the northbound side of the highway, Gross said.

Her SUV crashed almost head-on with a late model Volkswagen Beetle, killing three passengers and seriously injuring one as they were returning home from attending a funeral in King City, Gross said.

"I don't think they saw this coming," Gross said.

The two cars in the roadway caused a chain reaction as other vehicles in the northbound lanes crashed into them, injuring 15 other people, Gross said.

Ramirez, who suffered a broken neck, remained conscious after the accident and told California Highway Patrol officers that she was reaching for her cellphone prior to going off the road, Gross said.

From an investigation, prosecutors learned that Ramirez had two prior convictions for DUI and officers found empty pill bottles in her SUV after the accident, Gross said.

But they uncovered no evidence of DUI from samples of her blood, Gross said.

"We did a fairly thorough intoxication investigation, but nothing turned up," Gross said.

Prosecutors then filed the vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence charge after the defendant could never explain why she failed to turn back into her lane of travel to avoid the accident, Gross said.

"She made no attempt to correct her course," Gross said. "She just crossed the median."

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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