‘The light was green’


The third day of the jury trial for an Artman garbage truck driver accused of killing a man in a fatal car accident ended with the defendant personally testifying that, from his point of view and based on his recollection, the traffic light at the Puerto Rico intersection was green when he was passing through.

Eduardo Fabia, 50, took the stand yesterday to testify about what he remembered of the fatal car accident that took the life of another man last Feb. 1, 2021, when the garbage truck he was driving collided with a Honda Ridgeline pickup truck in the Puerto Rico area of Saipan.

Responding to questioning from his defense counsel, Vina Seelam of the Office of the Public Defender, and speaking through an interpreter, Fabia said he remembers that the incident happened at around 1pm when he and his co-worker, Cristopher Lucero, were headed down to San Vicente from Marpi on the Artman garbage truck he had been driving for year, and they were driving along Beach Road in Puerto Rico.

He said that, based on his memory, when he was approaching the intersection, just before the Army Reserve building, he saw that the intersection light ahead was red. However, when he was right across the Army Reserve area, just a few feet before the intersection, he saw the traffic lights turn green so he did not bother to stop.

Fabia, who claims he was driving a little under the speed limit of 45mph, said he didn’t bother to slow down as he neared the intersection because he saw the light had already switched from red to green and he was focused on that, so when he saw the Honda Ridgeline accelerating toward the Smiling Cove Marina, it was already too late.

The driver also testified that he has been operating trucks for over 10 years and he had gotten his eyes tested every two years because truck drivers are required to obtain certification in order to continue driving.

In addition, Fabia said he has been working for Artman for over eight years and frequents the Marpi to San Vicente route. He claims he is familiar with the intersection, the speed limit, and the patterns of the stop light.

Also, Fabia stated that, while driving through the intersection, he did not have a phone on him and he was not talking with his companion as he was focused on the road.

Earlier, on Day 2 of the trial, Office of the Public Defender’s JP Nogues argued that Fabia may not even be the one to blame for the car accident and should not be charged with homicide vehicle. Instead, the driver of the Honda Ridgeline, Quin Manglona, could be the one to blame.

“The homicide by vehicle statute in the CNMI says that it has to be determined that violation of the traffic code was the approximate cause of the death. If there is evidence that Manglona was violating sections of the traffic code, and the violation of those traffic codes were reckless, that would suggest that it is not my client who is guilty of reckless driving for homicide by vehicle but actually the driver of the pickup truck,” Nogue said Tuesday.

In support of his argument, during cross-examination, a Department of Public Safety traffic investigator confirmed that traffic laws in the CNMI prohibits pickup truck passengers from riding in the bed of the truck if there is space in the truck’s cab. However, based on photos admitted into evidence and shown to the jury, the Honda Ridgeline’s cab was completely empty.

Nogues also submitted a photo of a phone on the driver’s side floor of the Honda Ridgeline taken after the accident and argued that police never even questioned whether or not Manglona was on his phone while driving.

“DPS could have just as easily charged Manglona with the same charges as my client, like reckless driving, homicide by vehicle,” Nogues said.

The other passenger of the Ridgeline, Rommel Irang, had said he and the victim in the collision sat in the bed of the truck to “protect” or secure the generator that was being transported to the marina that day.

The jury trial is set to continue today before Superior Court Associate Judge Wesley Bogdan.

The prosecution already rested its case yesterday.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, the collision that took place last February 2021 killed Raju Bhai. Irang sustained serious injuries, while the driver, Manglona, did not sustain any injuries.

Fabia and Lucero were unscathed in the accident.

Fabia was arrested a day after for traffic signal violations, false reports, and homicide by vehicle.

DPS officers allege that Fabia and Lucero lied to police and were at fault in the accident.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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