VISTA - A woman accused of driving drunk on a Vista freeway just before a crash that killed two of her children pleaded not guilty today to child abuse and DUI counts.
Sandra Ortiz, 33, was arrested following the Father's Day crash that killed her 10-year-old son, Alan, and her 16-year-old daughter, Amy.
Police said that after a piece of luggage fell from their vehicle at around 6 p.m. Sunday, Ortiz pulled the car over to the side of state Route 78.
The children then entered the freeway in order to retrieve it and were struck by an oncoming vehicle, police said. Ortiz and four of her other children were in the car when the fatal crash happened.
She was initially arrested on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and was in custody on $500,000 bail, but Vista Superior Court Judge Matthew Brower released Ortiz on supervised own recognizance on Thursday.
She must follow a number of conditions while out of custody, including prohibitions against driving and a protective order was signed for her four surviving children.
That order will allow her to see the children in person while attending Alan and Amy's funeral services, but otherwise, their communications may only occur over the telephone. Brower said additional contact would be permitted if a family, juvenile, or probate judge issues a custody or visitation order allowing such contact.
Deputy District Attorney Stephanie De Jesus, who requested that bail remain set at $500,000, alleged Ortiz had a blood-alcohol-level of 0.14% two hours after the crash.
De Jesus alleged Ortiz did not have a valid driver's license at the time and that the six children were riding in the car ``unsecured, without seatbelts.''
It remains unclear what prompted the children to enter the freeway. De Jesus stated in court that Ortiz didn't make ``any effort to stop the children from exiting the vehicle or to get the children out of the freeway.''
The children's father, Miguel Aguilar, has told local news outlets that he does not believe Ortiz instructed the children to get out of the car.
He told 10News in an interview, ``My wife loved our kids and my wife would have done anything for them and she did not go up and tell them to get out of the car.''
During the arraignment, Ortiz wept throughout and stated, ``I would never do anything to hurt my babies.''
Family holds press conference
The family, including the deceased children's father, Michael Aguillar, and the children's grandmother, held a press conference after the tragedy, asking for the public to please show kindness to the mom who had lost her children.
Aguillar explained what happened that day, saying the grandmother and he had received a call telling them to hurry and come to Mar Vista and the 78 freeway. They quickly got there and saw 2 bodies covered up and he confirmed that both of his kids had died. He asked that people be kind to his wife and not make speculations. He said his wife wouldn't have put them in harm's way and that she yelled for them to come back, but it was too late and they had jumped out of the SUV.
He said that the family has been homeless and that he and his four children are currently staying with the grandmother, although she is just renting a room and they can't really stay there.
He also explained that his daughter and the children were going to the park to sell bracelets and candy to get her father a Father's Day present and the bags had all their belongings in them.
A GoFundMe has been started for funeral expenses for the children.
City News Service contributed to this story.