The National Transportation Safety Board has completed a report following a fatal tractor-trailer crash in June that happened in Tennessee, but could just as easily have happened in Florida.
The driver was contracted to transport a refrigerated trailer from Kentucky to Florida and back along I-75. After a series of roadway mishaps and failure to adhere to national drive time standards, the driver crashed into numerous vehicles on the highway.
In all, six people were killed and four were injured as he was driving through Ooltewah, TN.
According to media reports, the driver has since been charged with numerous felonies, including driving under the influence of narcotics and six counts of vehicular homicide.
Not only did the tractor-trailer experience two mechanical breakdowns prior to the crash, the driver was involved in a separate truck accident in Florida while he was making his return trip. What’s more, during the first leg of the trip, he reportedly logged 50 consecutive hours of drive time. Federal hours of service regulations handed down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration only allow for an 11-hour drive-time limit per shift.
Initially, the driver experienced a problem with the truck’s breaks. Then, there was an issue with the fuel delivery system of the vehicle.
While he was 45 hours into his marathon 50-hour shift, he reportedly sideswiped another commercial truck while passing through a small town in Sumter County, just northwest of Orlando. It wasn’t until he made it to his final destination five hours later that he logged out as off-duty. Twelve hours after that, he was back on the road. This was at 4:30 a.m.
By the time he reached Tennessee, it was 15 hours later. The sky was clear. The road was dry. It was shortly after 7 p.m. A line of vehicles was stopped on the highway due to road construction. That’s when he struck seven vehicles, causing the deaths of six people and the serious injury of four others.
Investigators with the NTSB concluded the driver violated hours of service rules, which are intended to prevent commercial vehicle operators from getting too tired behind the wheel. It’s well-established that fatigue can be as deadly as alcohol impairment when behind the wheel of a vehicle – especially one as large as a tractor-trailer.
Part of the investigation is still on-going. For example, the agency is still waiting on data from cell phone companies (to determine whether any of the involved drivers were distracted), as well as toxicology tests and security camera footage from a nearby business.
Meanwhile, a $10 million personal injury lawsuit has been filed by one of the surviving victims. He is seeking $5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages from the trucker personally and also from the trucking company employer.
Other civil cases are likely to follow.
Truck accident lawsuits can be arduous and complex, and require the aid of injury lawyer with extensive experience.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
NTSB releases report on fatal Ooltewah I-75 crash, Aug. 3, 2015, Staff Report, TimesFreePress.com
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