Initial indications are saying inattention is to blame in a fatal Missouri tractor trailer crash near Herculaneum on northbound Interstate 55. The devastating wreck occurred Wednesday afternoon and left two people dead, five more injured, and multiple cars completely mangled.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the tractor trailer was being driven by Jay Valentine, 32, of Huntsville, Texas. Valentine was heading northbound in a 2005 International Tractor Trailer approaching the McNutt Street exit when the semi-trailer accident took place. A line of cars had stopped, possibly due to construction in that area, but Valentine did not see them until it was too late. He swerved his truck into the left lane, but still collided with with multiple cars including a Ford Focus, which was drug almost 100 yards by the truck.
After the initial collision, the force of the impact created a chain reaction which eventually involved seven other vehicles besides the big rig.
Charles Martin, 52, was driving the Focus and was pronounced dead at the scene. Alana McKnight, 28, a driver of one of the other vehicles, also lost her life in the incident.
Among the most seriously injured were Cathy Hawn, 53, and Terry Hawn, 58, who were both taken to local hospitals for emergency treatment. Also injured were Alice Falk, 79; Mary Davis, 65; and Mark London, 51.
Our thoughts are with the families of the victims. Hopefully the injured parties will be able to eventually make a full recovery.
The tractor trailer had the logo for Western Express, Inc., a commercial trucking company based out of Nashville, Tenn. Western Express is a large company which employs over 2,400 drivers and operates trucks all over the country.
Looking at the safety record of the company, this is not the first fatal crash involving a Western Express truck. In fact, over the last two years there have been six fatal truck crashes and over 119 crashes resulting in serious injury.
In the Herculaneum accident, many local media outlets are reporting that Valentine had taken his eyes off the road just before the crash. Investigators have not revealed what he may have been distracted by, if anything. A full crash reconstruction will be performed which will produce a more detailed account of the events leading up to the incident.
If a driver is found to be criminally negligent, charges may be filed. Just recently, a driver pleaded guilty for involuntary manslaughter charges stemming from another tragic tractor trailer crash on Highway 40 in 2008.
The civil courts also can play a role in these cases as well. Injuries from a massive accident such as this can be devastating and take years to recover from, if a full recovery is even possible. This means there will be medical bills, loss of productivity and increased stress on the family. To make sure that their rights as accident victims are protected, it is a good idea for people injured by a tractor trailer to contact a St. Louis experienced accident lawyer to discuss their case.