Criminal Charges Dropped Against Trucker in Fatal I-80 Pile-Upby Jana Ritter - Published: 4/22/2015
Authorities have dropped the aggravated vehicular homicide charge against the Canadian truck driver who allegedly caused Monday's fiery chain reaction crash that involved 60 vehicles, killed 2 people and shut down the major I-80 trucking corridor in southeast Wyoming.
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The foggy, slick road conditions were more likely what caused the crash, as it was the second weather-related pileup to shut down the same corridor in less than a week. While the incident still remains under investigation, Albany County prosecuting attorney, Peggy Trent, issued a statement Tuesday saying that Alex Dragaytsev of Longueuil, Canada, was released from custody and the criminal charges against him dropped. Instead, he was cited for failure to use caution for hazardous conditions, which carries a $60 fine that he can challenge or pay by April 28.
"We did not feel that there was, from the investigation that was completed at this point, that we could proceed with the charge at this point," Trent said.
The crash occurred about 8 a.m. Monday 18 miles west of Laramie, Wyoming and shut down traffic for about 100 miles in both directions on the interstate 80, a major trucking corridor used by more than 6,000 trucks per day. According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol, the incident started with a commercial truck that jackknifed in both westbound lanes and caused dozens of other vehicles to pile into one another.
"I come out of the fog, and boom, there was the wreck," said truck driver Jeff Blair. Blair said that another truck immediately rear-ended his tractor-trailer, but he was able to avoid further damage by pulling into the median.
Many others involved in the 60-vehicle pile-up weren’t so lucky. The Wyoming Highway Patrol identified two motorists who were killed in the crash as Lynn Freeman, 58, of Arkansas, and Jenay L. Breden, 23 of Colorado. Approximately 20 to 25 people suffered injuries and were taken to a nearby hospital.
A 22,000-gallon tanker carrying a flammable liquid was among the vehicles that caught fire, but fortunately that truck driver escaped injuries and no hazardous materials leaked. Authorities say the fire has complicated the investigation into the exact cause of the crash and that many large tractor-trailers that had to be removed immediately in order to repair the road. Crews were finally able to reopen the I-80 on Tuesday, about 32 hours after the tragic incident occurred.
Foggy weather conditions also caused another major crash in Colorado last week, involving a tour bus and a tractor-trailer. The tour bus carrying Brooklyn-based performer, Twin Shadow, hit the tractor-trailer Friday on a foggy stretch of Interstate 70. Both the bus driver and the band’s drummer remain hospitalized in serious condition.