The truck driver involved in a June 25 nine-vehicle crash on I-75 near Chattanooga, Tenn., that killed six people, has been charged with six counts of vehicular homicide, among other charges.
The move comes shortly after the National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report into the crash, which found mechanical breakdowns, another minor crash on the trip, and major hours of service violations.
A lawsuit has also been filed against the driver and the carrier.
In addition to the vehicular homicide charges, Benjamin Scott Brewer, 39, was also charged with four counts of reckless aggravated assault; one count of driving under the influence of narcotics; one count of speeding (77 mph in a 55-mph zone), and one false report of duty status, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
On the evening of June 25, eight vehicles were stopped on I-75 northbound because of construction when Brewer's tractor-trailer plowed into them from behind. Six people, two of them children, were killed, and others were injured.
The NTSB usually sends five investigators to crash sites, but sent 11 to Chattanooga due to the scope of this incident, according to the paper.
In its preliminary report, the board found that Brewer began his trip on Monday, June 22, reporting for duty in London, Ky. He was supposed to pick up a load in Kentucky and deliver it to Florida. When he picked up the load, however, he found the truck's air compressor couldn't build up enough air to properly operate the brake system. After he got that fixed, the truck had problems with the fuel delivery system so it went back to the shop.
After that was repaired, no more mechanical issues were reported in route to Florida, but after being on duty for about 45 hours, he sideswiped another vehicle in Wildwood, Fla. There were not injuries, but he was cited with reckless driving for causing the crash, and the damage to the truck resulted in another delay for repairs.
The driver arrived at his final destination in Florida on Wednesday, June 24 – after being on duty for about 50 consecutive hours – and logged himself off duty at 4:30 p.m.
Twelve hours later he was on the road for his return trip to London, Kentucky, and at 7:10 p.m. was involved in the fatal crash – over his 14-hour daily on duty limit.
Other aspects of the investigation are ongoing, including a review of electronic control modules, security video from local businesses near the crash, cell phone records, motor carrier operations, and toxicology testing.
Two weeks ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration declared Brewer an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered him off the road.
That order noted that although Brewer reported being off duty June 15-25, the vehicle tracking system used by his employer, along with other records, showed he had been on-duty and driving on June 22, 23, and 24.
It was also found that Brewer omitted a past citation and crash from his employment application, which required him to list all accidents and convictions occurring in the past three years. On May 25, Brewer also tested positive for controlled substances following a court-ordered controlled substances test.
A crash survivor has filed a $10 million lawsuit against both Brewer and the carrier that owned the truck, Cool Runnings Express Inc., and the company's owners, Billy Sizemore and Cretty Sizemore, according to published reports. It apparently was Brewer's first run for the company.
According to the Times Free Press, Cool Runnings Express operates six trucks and employs nine drivers, hauling refrigerated freight.
During the last 24 months, the paper notes, the company's trucks failed three of eight vehicle inspections and two of 14 driver inspections. On three occasions since 2013, trucks were put out of service during roadside inspection issues because of brake problems. In addition, the paper reports two instances of out of service violations for hours of service in 2014.