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Bryce Sadtler address press conference
Flanked by reporters and Highway Patrol officers, and with cars mangled in the accident as a backdrop, Bryce Sadtler, a friend of three UC Berkeley grad students killed in a July 16 crash, speaks at a press conference seeking witnesses to the accident. (Steve McConnell photos)

CHP seeking witnesses to accident that killed 3 grad students

– California Highway Patrol officials are asking witnesses to come forward if they saw the violent Interstate-80 pileup on July 16 that killed three promising University of California, Berkeley, graduate students.

Specifically, there is evidence that a group of other vehicles were being driven in a reckless manner right before the 2:30 a.m. crash, CHP spokesman Trenton Cross said at a press conference on Thursday.

In the accident, a tractor-trailer driver going westbound on I-80 lost control of his vehicle because of the reckless drivers, and went through the center divider into the eastbound lanes near Ashby Avenue. The UC Berkeley students, returning to Berkeley from an evening in San Francisco, slammed into the truck and were killed.

Christine Micheel speaks to reporters
TV crews interview Christine Micheel, a co-worker of two of the students who died in the I-80 pileup.

"Many good witnesses have come forward," Cross said. He urged anyone who saw the accident or heard someone talking about the accident to contact the CHP at 1-800-TELL-CHP.

The UC Berkeley students were Benjamin P. Boussert, 27, a sixth-year graduate student from Baton Rouge, La.; Jason L. Choy, 29, of Bowie, Md., a student completing his seventh year of a Ph.D. program in chemistry and molecular and cell biology; and Giulia A. Adesso, 26, a visiting scholar from Italy conducting research at UC Berkeley while pursuing a Ph.D. from the University of Lecce.

"Jason, Ben and Giulia did not deserve what happened to them, but what they deserve now is a little bit of justice," said Mike Puglia, a childhood friend of Jason's who spoke at the press conference. "Our streets and our roads are not playgrounds."

Another friend and colleague of the victims, Bryce Sadtler, said he had driven into the city with the three of them that evening, but wound up taking a taxi home after meeting up with a friend and becoming separated from the group.

"You just assume, as I was getting home safe, that they were also making it home safe," Sadtler said. "It was a huge shock the next morning."

Cross said they have not arrested anyone in connection with the case. It is being investigated as a criminal case and suspects could face felony counts of vehicular manslaughter or murder, he said. Because the case is ongoing, he would not say if they knew how many cars were involved in the reckless driving or if they had identified the cars or drivers.