For his involvement in a car crash that killed a 2-year-old child and, shortly thereafter, the boy’s newborn brother, a 29-year-old box truck driver has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. The judge sentenced the driver to between 1 and 3 years in prison, followed by three years of probation.
According to news reports, the delivery driver was transporting a load of sea food on U.S. 17 near Wilmington when the crash occurred earlier this year. Investigators would later learn the driver had less than five hours of sleep the night before, and had purchased illicit drugs from a street dealer some nine hours before the crash.
The box truck driver was reportedly looking down at his sandwich as he approached a line of stopped traffic. He looked up and realized he needed to stop fast. Although he slammed on his brakes, it was too late. He crashed into the car ahead of him. This sparked a chain reaction. One of the vehicles in that chain reaction was driven by a Charlotte pastor, his wife, who was 37 weeks pregnant, and their 2-year-old son.
The young boy was killed instantly upon impact. The wife needed to undergo an emergency cesarean section. Initially, it seemed hopeful that the child would live. But three days later, that little boy died also.
Although the driver had drugs in his system, he was not initially charged with involuntary manslaughter. Instead, he was charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle and failure to reduce speed. Those charges were predicated on the findings that defendant was distracted at the time of the crash.
At the scene of the crash, investigating officers opined the box truck driver was not impaired. While he was booked on the misdemeanor charges, he admitted he was going through withdrawals because the last time he’d done heroin was two days earlier. However, toxicology reports and text messages would later indicate he’d purchased and used drugs hours before he got behind the wheel of that delivery truck. The drug he bought was a mixture of heroin and acetyl fentanyl, which is becoming an increasingly common combination in North Carolina.
The district attorney’s office would later explain the existence of those substances on their own isn’t enough to prove intoxication under the laws that existed at the time of the crash, as they were not deemed impairing per se. However, a new law signed this past summer upgrades acetyl fentanyl to a Schedule I substance. That means anyone found with it in his or her system will be presumed to be impaired, effective Dec. 1.
In terms of civil liability, it’s unlikely the driver has any assets or resources to speak of. Typically in this type of situation, our Charlotte truck injury lawyers will pursue a vicarious liability action against the owners of the truck and/or the company that employed the driver. These companies owe a duty to ensure they are careful in hiring qualified drivers, in providing proper training to their drivers, adequately supervising them to ensure they are following laws and procedures and randomly drug testing to ensure compliance with zero tolerance laws for commercial truckers.
By taking legal action against the company, our Charlotte wrongful death attorneys work to ensure other companies will abide by safety laws and regulations and be more cautious in serving as a watchdog for their own drivers.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Charlotte pastor to driver after plea: Our sons would want you in heaven, Sept. 2, 2015, WBTV
More Blog Entries:
Not Afraid v. Mumford – Highway Design Liability for Auto Accident Injuries, Dec. 1, 2015, Charlotte Truck Accident Lawyer Blog