A truck driver from Tennessee was arrested on aggravated DUI and manslaughter charges in Virginia recently in connection with a fatal Maine truck accident that occurred in March.
Authorities told the Portland Press Herald the 53-year-old driver was reportedly hauling lumber in a tractor-trailer on Route 17 in Washington, ME when he veered his semi into oncoming traffic. The tractor-trailer rolled over, lumber was flung all over the roadway and a total of five vehicles were involved.
Two people – a 74-year-old man from Owls Head and a 45-year-old woman from Warren – were declared dead at the scene.
The trucker, whose last known address was in Greenville, TN, was being held without bail in Virginia to await an extradition hearing. The manslaughter charges are Class A felonies, while the DUI charges are Class B felonies. The chief deputy overseeing the case said more charges are likely, but the investigation is continuing.
Early reports are that when the trucker drove into oncoming traffic, he struck head-on a pickup truck driven by the 74-year-old victim. Then, he struck a van driven by the 45-year-old victim. The van was also struck by flying lumber, pushed into a nearby field and then burst into flames. Another driver, age 51, in a Nissan, was also hit by the trailer before being knocked off the road, rolled over and then striking another vehicle – a Kia driven by a 33-year-old Washington woman. The 33-year-old driver narrowly evaded being struck by the tractor-trailer because she made a sharp, evasive turn.
The semi-truck driver was transported by helicopter to the hospital for treatment. His 32-year-old passenger was transported for medical treatment via ambulance.
The blood-alcohol concentration level of the trucker was 0.09. The maximum legal limit for commercial drivers is 0.04, which is half what it is for all other drivers.
For manslaughter, the maximum penalty in Maine is 30 years in prison. But no matter how much time this man spends behind bars, it won’t bring back the victims. Civil action is advised to assist families to regain their financial footing, even as they are still reeling from the loss.
The curve at which the crash occurred has reportedly been a trouble spot on the Maine Department of Transportation’s radar for some time. Rumble strips have been installed along stretches of Route 17, but not at that particular curve. The deputy chief of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office was quoted as saying there have been “a number” of accidents at that same location, and there are questions as to whether the bank is too steep for vehicles that are traveling westbound. Among the previous accidents at the site:
- In September, an 18-wheeler flatbed loaded with snowplows missed the curve, drove off into a field and flipped;
- In April 2015, a driver lost control on that curve, clipped another vehicle and flipped, landing on its roof;
- In March (just one day before this crash) a motorist missed the curve and crashed, causing the driver to sustain injuries.
That could be an element for an injury lawyer representing the victims to explore as well: Whether the state knew a dangerous roadway condition existed and failed to address it.
Beyond that, the trucker might personally be held liable, though there is likely to be more interest in the liability of his employer and the owner of the truck. These entities are more likely to have the level of resources/ insurance to make sure the victims are compensated.
If you are the victim of a Portland truck accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Tennessee truck driver arrested in crash that killed 2 in Maine, May 6, 2016, Portland Press Herald
More Blog Entries:
Maine Car Accident Blamed on Vehicle Defect, May 11, 2016, Portland Car Accident Lawyer Blog