A Maryland man who last year drove his pickup truck across a median on Del. 1, causing a horrific crash that killed a New Jersey man and his four daughters and seriously injured his wife was sentenced Friday to one year of probation.
If Alvin Hubbard III does not satisfy the terms of that probation, he could face 14 years in prison.
Judge Calvin L. Scott Jr. determined the sentence despite tearful pleas from Mary Rose Ballocanag, the widow and mother, and the presence of many of the Trinidads’ friends from northern New Jersey.
Ballocanag asked the judge to impose the 14-year maximum prison sentence allowed by law. Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Hubbard to six months in prison.
“His one life will never be enough for the five people he killed,” Ballocanag said.
The driver of the Ford F-350 Alvin Hubbard III, of East New Market, Maryland, that crossed the median of Del. 1 last July causing a multi-vehicle wreck that killed five members of the Trinidad family from New Jersey plead guilty on Wednesday at the New Castle County Courthouse. The head-on collision killed a father and his four daughters and injured the mother, Audie Trinidad, Kaitlyn, 20; Danna, 17; and twins Allison and Melissa, 13). Wife Mary Rose Ballocanag is still recovering. (Photo: Jennifer Corbett, The News Journal)
Hubbard wept intermittently during the sentencing hearing. When given a chance to speak, he tearfully declined.
In early July 2018, Hubbard, a welder, was driving south with a co-worker on Delaware’s primary north-south expressway in a Ford F-350 following a day at work.
Near Townsend, his truck, owned by his employer Aledak Metalworks, drifted left out of the left lane. Hubbard corrected. Shortly after, the truck veered left again, but this time crossed the median and entered into the Del. 1 north lanes.
At that same moment, the Trinidad family from Teaneck, New Jersey, was returning home on Del. 1 in their minivan from a vacation in Ocean City, Maryland.
Hubbard first struck a sedan driven by Brian Kern in the north lanes, injuring the man. Then, the truck collided with the Trinidads’ minivan.
The entirety of the incident lasted a few seconds, but it took the lives of 61-year-old Audie Trinidad and his daughters, Kaitlyn, 20, Danna, 17, and twins Allison and Melissa, 13.
On Friday, Ballocanag approached a lectern to address the court.
At first, she couldn’t muster her words, only weeping softly before saying, “Sorry.”
Mary Rose Ballocanag of Teaneck, N.J., whose her husband and four daughters were killed in a Del. 1 wreck near Townsend in July 2018, leaves New Castle County Courthouse on Friday afternoon following the sentencing of the man who caused the crash. Ballocanag was seriously injured in the crash. (Photo: Jennifer Corbett, Delaware News Journal)
She then described for the court the injuries she suffered and treatments she endured following the crash. Her eight surgeries haven’t been enough to bring back full use of her legs and arms, she said.
Never again will she be able to work as a nurse, Ballocanag said.
“But my physical pain is nothing compared to the mental pain and anguish of losing my entire family.”
As she finished, Ballocanag turned toward Hubbard and revealed a photo of her four daughters and husband.
“I want you to look at their faces,” she said to a tearful Hubbard. “So when you look at your children, you will see the pieces of my children and my husband.”
Hubbard wasn’t immediately charged following the 2018 crash. At the time, Delaware State Police said the investigation could take months, rankling relatives and friends of the Trinidads.
“Hopefully, we can put this behind us. And hopefully, he gets the maximum because right now I can’t find it in my heart for any forgiveness,” Daniel Trinidad, Audie’s brother, told Delaware Online/The News Journal in the weeks after the crash.
Hubbard was indicted in November 2018 on five counts of second-degree vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault. He also faced charges of inattentive driving, driving across a median and failing to obey traffic devices. He originally pleaded not guilty.
The state came back with lesser charges. Five counts of operating a vehicle causing death, as well as one count each for second-degree and third-degree vehicular assault. Hubbard pleaded guilty to those charges.
At a hearing in June, he spoke in single-word “yes” or “no” answers while admitting culpability for the five deaths and three injuries. In addition to Ballocanag, Kern and Hubbard’s passenger also were injured.
He admitted his lack of attention and negligent driving caused the deaths and injuries. He never explained why he was distracted.
Hubbard’s attorney, John Kirk, on Friday pointed to a respiratory condition, called cough syncope. While he was driving, Kirk said, Hubbard began to cough. It caused him to stray, initially, from the lane, he said. But the cough became more violent, causing him to pass out, Kirk said.
“Many lives were ruined that day, including his,” Kirk said.
Ballocanag appeared doubtful that a coughing fit could have caused the crash that took her family.
Diane Lucianna, an attorney acting as her spokeswoman, said after the hearing that claims of respiratory problems “may be self-serving.” Lucianna said Hubbard had not been given any such medical diagnosis directly after the crash.
Kirk said that a doctor had later diagnosed him with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. He stated emphatically that Hubbard had not fallen asleep at the wheel.
Yet, prosecutors told the judge that Hubbard had slept only four or five hours the previous night before working a full day.
When asked, they said the state had not found evidence of “intentional or reckless conduct.”
Also drawing criticism following the crash was the Delaware Department of Transportation for not having installed a guardrail along that section of Del. 1.
Lucianna said Ballocanag had considered suing the state, “but it’s right in Delaware statute, you can’t sue for guardrails or lack of.”
She said that the insurance company for Aledak Metalworks had reached a confidential settlement with Ballocanag.
“It’s the end of the road legally for this case,” Lucianna said.
The Trinidads’ community
While the Trinidad family’s story may have ended in Delaware, 150 miles away in the northern New Jersey town of Teaneck, a Filipino community kept empty the church pew where the family always sat.
Kaitlyn “Nikki” Trinidad, the oldest sister, or Ate (AH-te) to her younger sisters, had been studying in nearby New York City to become a nurse, just like her mom.
Danna, the middle sister, was the outspoken one. She wanted to become an attorney.
The twins, Melissa and Allison, were the youngest. They loved to dance together, even when one had to assume a boy’s role during couples’ performances.
Their father, Audie, was a Navy veteran and a postal worker, who would commute daily to an office in the Bronx. Described by many as a “simple man,” he was devoted to his girls.
Sitting the front porch of his brother’s home in Teaneck, N.J., Daniel Trinidad continues to mourn the loss of his brother Audie and nieces Kaitlyn, 20; Danna, 17; and 13-year-old twins, Melissa and Allison. (Photo: Suchat Pederson, The News Journal)
He also was the lenient one of the two parents, Daniel Trinidad said. He always took them on summer vacations to destinations of their choosing, he said, including their final one to Ocean City.
“I don’t think any dad could say no to these beautiful kids,” Daniel Trinidad said last year.
Audie also was a volunteer at the Church of Saint Anastasia. Every Sunday, he would usher the 11:30 a.m. Mass, guiding guests of the largely Filipino congregation to their seats. Sometimes, Danna would help.
They would then take their seats in a rear pew that was informally designated for the family. After Mass, the family organized refreshments, alongside another church couple, Tirso “Jett” and Charina Ballesteros.
On July 1, 2018, the Sunday before the family left on their last vacation, it was hot dogs and hamburgers – a July Fourth theme.
On Friday, about 18 of Ballocanag’s friends and family attended the sentencing hearing.
Family member Patricio Agas holds a card that reads, “When the sadness seems too great, like a river too wide to cross, faith makes a bridge that can carry us,” as he arrives for the nine-day novena (prayer) ceremony Tuesday night to remember the Trinidad family. Audie Trinidad, who was an usher at Saint Anastasia Catholic Church, always saved a spot for his family during Sunday services. (Photo: Suchat Pederson, The News Journal)