10 Fatality Pile-up in Oklahoma Illustrates Tractor Trailer Dangers

Oklahomans are still reeling after a freeway pileup on the Will Rogers turnpike turned out to be one of the deadliest truck wrecks in Oklahoma history.

Ten people, ranging in age from 7 to 69, were killed when a truck driver failed to brake for stopped traffic and slammed into a line of cars, causing a deadly chain reaction.

At 1:16pm on Friday, June 26, 2009, driver Donald Creed of Willard, Missouri drove his tractor trailer down a hill near mile marker 321 on the Will Rogers Turnpike in Ottawa County, Oklahoma. There he came upon an earlier crash, which had stopped traffic. According to official reports, Creed did not apply the brakes or slow down and hit a vehicle in front of him, knocking it into a ditch. From there, Creed’s truck continued to barrel through stopped traffic, hitting the next vehicle in the line and causing a deadly chain reaction.

Before that day, Donald Creed, who obtained his commercial trucker’s license in his home state of Missouri, had a squeaky clean driving record. Investigators though, say that the truck's brakes were not faulty and that the incident must have been caused by driver error. While the day was clear and dry, Oklahoma state troopers did report that Creed was driving too fast for conditions. As we previously reported here on the MLN Law blog, the majority of accidents – with both tractor trailer trucks and personal vehicles – occur when drivers are driving too fast for conditions

Investigators also performed a toxicology screen on Creed, but say that it appears alcohol was not involved in the accident. Nevertheless, Creed may face as many as 10 counts of negligent homicide.

The fact that the accident occurred on a clear day and that there were no apparent problems with the truck calls the age of the driver into question. Tulsa World, an Oklahoma newspaper, investigated the law in regard to age and commercial driver’s licenses. They found that there is no age limit on holding a commercial driver’s license as long as the licensee meets all requirements. Creed met the necessary requirements in April 2009, just two months before the accident. Obtaining this certification required having a medical exam that tested eyesight, hearing and other medical conditions. The truck’s log also showed that Creed was within acceptable limits for driving during the day and investigators did not mention any evidence of a falsified log book.

The tragedy in Oklahoma, with its apparent lack of cause other than human error, illustrates just how dangerous tractor trailer accidents can be. Tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds while most cars weigh about 3,000 pounds. A clash between the two, whether the driver is drunk or he simply looked away from the road at the worst moment, is almost always much more dangerous for the passengers in the personal auto than it is for the trucker.

If you’ve been injured in a tractor trailer accident, or if you’ve lost a loved one due to a negligent truck driver or trucking company, call MLN Law at (404) 531-9700 to schedule your free consultation. Call now. The longer you wait, the weaker your case becomes.