The driver of a tractor trailer has been charged with vehicular homicide, DUI and reckless driving after a fatal crash on I-285 during Friday afternoon rush hour, that killed three and reportedly injured seven others. See Channel 2, Channel 11 , and AJC coverage. Police said Monday that investigators now believe the tractor-trailer struck one vehicle from behind, starting the chain reaction.
The people killed were identified as Gwendolyn Beasley, 72, and Truett Beasley, 79, of Florida (parents of Mobile-based comedian known as “Killer Beaz,”) , and Kevin Brunelle, 26, from Warm Springs. Seven additional people were injured, two critically. “I saw the semi hit its brakes and after that happened I saw cars flying in the air, just going everywhere,” witness Sally Petermann said. The tractor-trailer stopped on top of an SUV. Wrecked cars littered the interstate.
The truck driver charged for the deaths is Ephantus Ngugi Gathuru, 49, of Woodstock. He was held at the DeKalb County Jail subject to a $150,000 cash only bond until an August 9th court date.
This crash occurred near a large number of trucking terminals. None of these news reports identify the trucking company for which Gathuru was driving, what he was hauling, whether the company is operating interstate or intrastate, or anything about the driver’s driving history or qualifications, or his immigration status.
Safersys indicates he was registered as an owner-operator with one truck and hauling general freight. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, 49 CFR 390.5, says that an independent contractor while in the course of operating a commercial motor vehicle is an employee of the trucking company. Therefore, trucking companies are financially responsible for the negligence of independent owner-operators who drive for them.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, 49 CFR 392.5 prohibits “any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol, while on duty, or operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle.” 49 CFR §391.15, also provides for disqualification of a truck driver who operates a commercial motor vehicle while blood alcohol concentration is 0.04 % (half the level for DUI in Georgia).
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).