A high-profile truck crash in Georgia that led to increased calls for a collision-avoidance technology mandate has reportedly resulted in murder indictments for the truck driver and carrier involved.
Five Georgia Southern University nursing students were killed in April 2015 in a seven-vehicle crash on Interstate 16.
Truck driver John Wayne Johnson of Shreveport, Louisiana, failed to stop in time and crashed into traffic slowed on the interstate around 5:45 a.m. due to an earlier wreck. Seven vehicles, including two tractor-trailers and five passenger cars, were involved in the crash.
Four of the students died at the scene. Three other students were taken to the hospital, where one died. Three other people were also injured in the crash.
The crash led Road Safe America founder Stephen Owings to renew his call for Congress and the federal government to require collision-avoidance systems in all tractor-trailer trucks.
Now a grand jury has indicted Johnson and the trucking company he worked for, Total Transportation of Mississippi, on murder charges, according to WSB-TV 2 in Atlanta.
Johnson was indicted on multiple charges of homicide by vehicle, and one count of serious injury by vehicle, reckless driving, failure to exercise due care and following too closely. Total Transportation has been indicted on multiple charges of homicide by vehicle, along with one count of criminal responsibility of corporations and serious injury by vehicle.
At the time, Channel 2 found that over the previous two years, Total's drivers had reeived 266 unsafe driving violations.
Earlier this year, Total Transportation agreed to settle wrongful death lawsuits in the case, with at least one victim's family receiving $14 million, according to a report in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. (Total's parent company, U.S. Xpress, is based in Chattanooga.)
According to that report, depositions in the civil suits revealed that the company hired Johnson after he had disclosed being fired by a previous employer for falling asleep at the wheel. Johnson testified that the crash was his fault, but insisted he was awake.
Total Transportation of Mississippi operates 765 power units and has more than 900 drivers, according to its current SAFER record. Those records show that in the past 24 months, the company has had two fatal crashes, 31 injury crashes, and 51 crashes that required towing. Its current inspection out of service rate for vehicles and ddrivers is below the national average.