According to the Ventura County Star, RP Cummings Inc. of Thousand Oaks, Calif., has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and causing the death or impairment of an employee, both felonies.
Patrick Hildebrand of Ventura, Calif., a trucker with 15 years of experience, was hauling 7,000 gallons of crude oil down a steep, narrow, winding canyon road in February 2000. His brakes failed about a half-mile before the bottom of the 7-percent grade. His rig flew off a cliff and landed 130 feet below, killing Hildebrand and spilling thousands of gallons of oil into a creek. The company has also been charged with a misdemeanor count of polluting state waters; the spill cost more than $3 million to clean up.
California Highway Patrol investigators found that the truck's upper and lower brake linings were worn down to the rivets, and other brake equipment was out of adjustment. Investigators accused RP Cummings of improperly maintaining its trucks and ignoring driver complaints.
The Hildebrand family also has filed a civil suit against the company.