Gavel photo courtesy of via Flickr

A suspected drugged driver accused of causing a fiery, fatal head-on crash on a Jamul highway last summer pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that include gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

David James San Nicolas, 33, is accused of causing the Aug. 3, 2019, death of Sabah Aso, 64, who is survived by his wife of 46 years and nine children.

Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright alleges that San Nicolas was “significantly under the influence of methamphetamine” when he veered into opposing lanes of traffic on state Route 94 just before 1 p.m. that day, striking Aso’s vehicle head-on.

The impact sent Aso’s vehicle down an embankment, where it overturned and became engulfed in flames, according to the California Highway Patrol. Aso died at the scene and the crash sparked a fire that blackened about an acre of brush.

San Nicolas was seriously injured in the crash, suffering a fractured femur and lumbar, Bright said.

Defense attorney Avery Webb said at Thursday morning’s video arraignment that the crash has left San Nicolas disabled, limiting his driving ability should he be released from custody.

Bail was set at $50,000, and the defendant is due back in court Oct. 16 for a preliminary hearing.

–City News Service