When his tractor-trailer hit the stopped vehicles on the interstate highway, it was going 70 mph. Police say there were no signs indicating the trucker ever made an attempt to slow his rig down.
Two people were killed and two others were injured in the 2009 truck accident about 200 miles to the east of La Crosse, in Belgium, Wisconsin.
The 37-year-old truck driver was recently sentenced to five years in state prison; a price many would consider small for the taking of two lives. He and his employer, a Missouri company, also face a civil lawsuit from one of the injury victims in the wreck.
The Missouri trucker pleaded no contest to felony counts of homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle, as well reckless driving.
A state probation agent had recommended a suspended sentence for the driver, saying he didn't intend to cause the carnage and that the man was simply working long, hard hours to support his family, including his four kids.
While all that might be true, the fact remains that two people's lives came to an end because of the trucker's negligence.
Police and prosecutors painted a grim picture of the events leading up the fatal crash: a speeding, heavy truck driven by a man who had falsified his driving log to indicate that he'd been behind the wheel fewer hours than he actually had been driving. The result, prosecutors said, was an inattentive, fatigued trucker who didn't notice halted vehicles on the highway, though there were signs warning of construction and traffic delays at least a mile before he reached the stoppage.
In addition, prosecutors said, the truck driver had a clear view of the road and had at least 20 seconds in which to notice the vehicles stopped ahead of him.
"I don't know if he was sleeping or not paying attention, but [20 seconds] is a long time not to be paying attention when you're driving at 65 to 70 mph on the expressway," the judge said.
The driver and his employer are co-defendants in the pending lawsuit seeking actual damages and punitive damages.
Source: Ozaukee Press: "Semi driver sent to prison for fatal I-43 Belgium crash": july 13, 2011