Santa Ana man charged in fatal Irvine crash

Prosecutors allege he drove under the influence of alcohol, despite a bartender and police officer's offers to call a cab.

September 03, 2011|By Lauren Williams,

A man accused of drunk driving was charged with killing his nephew and severely injuring his brother-in-law after he crashed into a light pole in Irvine.

Tapu Aniceto Sitagata, 27 of Santa Ana, was drinking at Newport Five Cocktails in Tustin on Dec. 20 when a bartender asked Sitagata and his friends and family to leave because they were being rowdy, according to an Orange County district attorney's office news release.

Both the bartender and a Tustin police officer offered to call a cab for Sitagata, but he told the officer he was waiting for a cab, prosecutors said.


After the officer left, prosecutors allege Sitagata drove his Chevrolet Suburban away from the bar, and crashed at Irvine Center Drive and Culver Drive in Irvine, about five miles away from the bar.

Sitagata's 20-year-old nephew, Pesa Sitagata, was killed and Sitagata's 34-year-old brother-in-law Aron La suffered fractures to both legs, broken ribs and lacerations to his spleen and liver, the release said.

A passerby offered to call 911, but Sitagata refused before fleeing on foot, according to prosecutors. He was arrested a short distance away.

The district attorney's office received the case from the Irvine Police Department last month, according to D.A. spokeswoman Farrah Emami.

According to Irvine police spokeswoman Lt. Julia Engen, the department waited to file with the D.A.'s office because the crash investigation was ongoing.

Sitagata is charged with one felony count each of murder, driving under the influence causing great bodily injury, driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, and hit-and-run with injury, and one misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license, according to the release.

He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years and eight months to life in prison.

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