Retired Firefighter Gets Up to 80 Years in Deadly Crash

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- A retired California firefighter was sentenced Friday to up to 80 years in prison for causing an interstate crash that killed five members of a Utah family last year.

Stephen Scharosch, 52, who admitted that he was drunk and had been smoking marijuana before the crash, will serve a minimum of 26 years before he's eligible for parole.

``He's not a young man and he's not in good health. If that's not a life sentence, it's very, very close,'' Deputy District Attorney Dan Greco said.

Scharosch pleaded guilty in November to five felony counts of DUI causing death in the May 13 crash on Interstate 80 east of Reno. On Friday, he entered additional guilty pleas to charges of felony driving under the influence causing substantial bodily harm.

In a brief statement, Scharosch apologized.

``I'm not a monster. I'm responsible for a terrible tragedy,'' he said. ``I would gladly trade places with them.''

The family was returning to West Jordan, Utah, from a 50th wedding anniversary celebration in San Jose, Calif., when Scharosch, driving the wrong way, slammed his car head-on into their minivan.

Fernando Meza-Arriaga, driving the van, received minor injuries. Killed were Meza-Arriaga's daughter, Alejandra, 7; two sons, Tito, 3, and Marco, 9 months; sister, Gloria Meza-Arriaga, 38; and his sister's 4-year-old daughter, Gloria Destiny Vasquez.

His wife, Maria Avelar-Mojarro, 29, and 2-year-old niece, Liliana Vasquez, were injured critically.

Scharosch, of Grass Valley, Calif., also was fined $2,000 on each count and ordered to pay at least $310,909 to cover the survivors' medical bills.

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