Fresno driver in head-on crash that killed 4 has DUI past; Mendota victims fondly recalled

The Fresno BeeJune 24, 2014 

The Fresno man accused of killing four people, including a Mendota woman engaged to be married and her two young nephews, in Sunday's head-on collision has two prior convictions for drunken driving.

Rien Ban, 43, is suspected of driving drunk again Sunday when he caused the crash on Highway 180 east of Mendota. He was booked Sunday night into the Fresno County Jail on felony charges of drunken driving causing death and/or injury and four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. A criminal complaint filed Tuesday notes a drunken driving conviction in 2006, and court records show he has a prior conviction in 2001, too.

He was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court.

Killed in the crash were Belkys Rodriguez Quesada, 25, who was engaged to get married, and her nephews, Lisandro Enriquez Rodriguez, 10, and Danny Enriquez Rodriguez, 7. The two brothers were students in the Mendota Unified School District.

Suyapa Quesada, 37, of Mendota suffered moderate injuries. She is Belkys Quesada's sister and the mother of the two boys.

Also killed was Sinoeun Uong, 37, of Sacramento, who was a passenger in Ban's SUV.

"It's a terrible tragedy," Mendota businessman Joseph Riofrio said Tuesday. He knew both families.

The Quesadas and Rodriguezes are longtime Mendota residents, Riofrio said. The father of the boys works in the fields as a crew leader. He and his family are devout Catholics who go to church every Sunday in their best clothes, Riofrio said.

The victims were returning home Sunday after shopping in Kerman, he said.

"It's sad because she and her fiancé had already bought their wedding rings," Riofrio said of Belkys Quesada. "The two boys were good students and well liked and well mannered."

"Why does something like this have to happen to a good family?" he said. "Now they have to go through years of court hearings."

Ban was headed toward Fresno. California Highway Patrol spokesman officer Axel Reyes said investigators are checking a tip that Ban had been fishing near Mendota just before the crash.

Reyes said the CHP investigation will include a "24-hour profile" of Ban's actions in the time leading up to the crash. The criminal complaint from the Fresno County District Attorney's Office says he is suspected of having a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.15 -- nearly twice the legal limit.

No other details about the investigation were released Tuesday, but the CHP and the DA's office plan a news conference about the case Wednesday morning.

The CHP said Ban was the driver of an eastbound Mercedes SUV that smashed into a westbound Kia while passing a slower car on Highway 180 near Sonoma Avenue about 4:30 p.m. Sunday east of Mendota.

Suyapa Quesada was driving the Kia. Her sister was in the front passenger seat and her two sons were in the rear passenger seats.

Witnesses said the SUV stayed in the westbound lane even after it passed the slower vehicle. The oncoming Kia slowed and turned left to avoid a crash. The SUV then turned right, and the two vehicles smashed into each other.

The CHP said Ban was driving 65 to 70 mph. Ban and his other passenger, Ol Oeum, 37, of Fresno, suffered moderate injuries.

Riofrio said Suyapa Quesada has been released from the hospital. She wishes she could trade places with her sons, he said.

Court records say Ban pleaded no contest to drunken driving in January 2001 and was sentenced to three years of probation, five days in the adult offender work program, fined more than $2,000, and ordered to attend a first-time offender program. On his second drunken-driving conviction in 2006, he was again sentenced to three years of probation, fined, ordered to attend a DUI program, but had to do 19 days in the adult offender work program.

His criminal record also includes no-contest pleas to misdemeanor battery on an emergency worker in 2000 and misdemeanor charges of trespassing and driving with a suspended or revoked license in 2009.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, or @beecourts on Twitter.

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