Involuntary Manslaughter Charge Sticks in Death of U.S. Steel Workerby Jana Ritter - Published: 6/29/2015
The truck driver arrested after killing a U.S. Steel employee in a loading area last April, will likely be standing trial on the charge of involuntary manslaughter. On the day of incident police had arrested Meho Saljic and initially said he would be facing homicide charges of some kind. But after hours of testimony and several adjournments, the case's preliminary examination finally wrapped up last week and 25th District Judge David Zelenak ruled that Saljic will be bound over to Wayne County Circuit Court on the charge of involuntary manslaughter.
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Meho Saljic immigrated from Bosnia to the U.S. over 20 years ago, is a father of three and an ALCO truck driver with nearly 15 years of experience. He was driving a semi-truck loaded with steel coils when he allegedly backed into Heather Warren, a 41-year-old U.S. Steel employee who worked at the facility for three years and had been directing trucks in the loading area of the facility on April 18, 2015.
According to police court testimony, Saljic had secured the coils onto his trailer and witnesses say he interacted with Warren briefly but instead of waiting in line to pull forward in normal operating procedure, he backed his truck up and ran over Warren. While evidence also showed that a side kit on the truck had blocked his vision behind him, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Erika Tusar argued that Salijic is an experienced driver with specialized training and was negligent for backing up without prompt, permission or warning. But Saljic’s defense attorneys argued that the situation was a “just a tragic accident, not a criminal act” and that there is absolutely no evidence or motive to suggest Saljic even knew that Warren was behind his truck when he backed up. They also suggest that his language barrier could have been a contributing factor as well.
Truck driver Edward Peterson was also at the location that day and testified that he had been waiting to pull his truck into the loading area when he noticed Saljic’s truck begin to back up towards Warren, who had been standing in the doorway. Peterson said he began repeatedly sounding his horn to get her attention, but it was too late and the truck knocked her to the ground.
“It’s a picture I’ve had going through my head a thousand times, her hard hat flying off. She put her legs up to try to push her body away, but her feet hit the mud flap and it folded her up,” he said.
Peterson also told the court that immediately after the tragic incident he told Saljic, “You hit someone, pull forward,” and “there’s something under your trailer,” but he said that Saljic did not respond. Instead, he said Saljic got back into his truck and reversed again, until Warren’s body was passed underneath five of the truck’s axles. To this, the assistant prosecutor told the court “it makes absolutely no sense” why he allegedly continued to back up over the victim’s body even after another truck driver told him he had hit her.
The medical examiner also gave his testimony and told the court that Warren died quickly from injuries that included fractures to her lower extremities and ribs, and lacerations to her heart, lungs and liver. He also revealed more gruesome details that the victim’s blood and human tissue were reportedly found on the tires and axles of Saljic’s truck, but no evidence suggested she was run over by the tires more than once.
For Judge David Zelenak it was enough evidence to that the involuntary manslaughter charge will stick. “Every operator of a motorized vehicle has a duty to back up property. People should be safe and prudent operating any vehicle, from a motorized bike to a trailer carrying coil,” he said during his ruling.
Saljic remains out on a personal bond and will be arraigned at 9 a.m. July 7. The court also ruled he can no longer drive a commercial vehicle.