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Driver guilty of causing fatal crash while using ‘laughing gas’

September 24, 2012 |  7:24 pm

An Orange County man who was driving while inhaling "laughing gas" was convicted and sentenced Monday for causing a fiery crash that killed a passenger and injured two others.

Prosecutors said Jose Luis Gomez Nava had been using nitrous oxide when he lost control of his car in Santa Ana.

Nava, 22, pleaded guilty to one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated.

Now in a wheelchair due to his injuries in the crash, Nava was sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney's office.

In the statement, prosecutors said they objected to the sentence, arguing in favor of a state prison term that would reflect the "aggravated circumstances" of the case, such as his "disregard for the lives of multiple passengers and others on the road" and his excessive speed.

Prosecutors said that shortly before 8 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2010, Nava's car reached speeds of more than 80 mph in a 45-mph zone in Santa Ana. He had one friend in the front passenger seat and two others in the back seat.

Nava, prosecutors said, was inhaling laughing gas from balloons as he drove and at one point dropped his head and let go of the steering wheel.

The vehicle careened into a center median and crashed into a pine tree. The impact of the crash and damage to the front of the vehicle caused it ignite, prosecutors said.

Steve Gomez, his 15-year-old friend in the front seat, was trapped inside the vehicle and died at the scene, prosecutors said. He had multiple blunt-force injuries.

In the back seat, one passenger had a broken leg and the other had abrasions on his chest and knee.

Nava was trapped inside the vehicle and comatose, prosecutors said. He was treated for severe head and heat-related injuries and a broken clavicle.

Prosecutors said that balloons were in his pants pocket, and a gas cylinder and a valve knob for the gas cylinder were found near the crash site.


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