Drunk Driver Charged With Manslaughter After Causing Death of Two Truck Driversby Jana Ritter - Published: 7/02/2013
The driver causing last month's fatal rush hour crash on Interstate 581 had a blood-alcohol content at least two and a half times the legal limit, according to an indictment filed Monday in Roanoke Circuit Court. Wellons, 34, was indicted Monday by a Roanoke grand jury on two counts of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and one count of DUI stemming from the crash.
Police have said Wellons' Ford Taurus was headed north near the Valley View Boulevard exit that afternoon when it swerved across two lanes and collided with a tractor-trailer. The driver of the R&L Carriers truck swerved into the median, in an apparent attempt to avoid the Ford. But instead, that truck crossed the median into the southbound lanes of I-581 near the Valley View Boulevard exit and struck a Fleetmaster Express tractor-trailer. The diesel fuel of the trucks ignited and created the fireball that engulfed the crash. The driver of the R&L truck, Paul Alexander Golding, 36, was a Salem resident. The Fleetmaster driver, Kenneth Graham, 54, was from Lexington, N.C. Both died at the scene.
The driver of a Sportage that was headed south alongside the Fleetmaster truck was taken to the hospital. Police said Frances Priscilla Green escaped the car before it became fully involved in the fire. She was treated at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and released, according to hospital spokesman Eric Earnhart. Occupants of an Adams Construction vehicle also involved in the wreck escaped without injury.
Wellons was charged immediately after the crash with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, but Roanoke Commonwealth's Attorney Donald Caldwell said at the time that those offenses were placeholders until the case could go before a grand jury.
Search warrants said Wellons admitted to police he'd been drinking at work before the crash, and police seized a cup and a mug containing brown liquids from Wellons' workplace. Investigators also said in the warrants that while at the hospital Wellons had slurred speech and “a strong odor” of alcohol, and while he was being treated he was additionally charged with misdemeanor assault and battery. “He grabbed one of the medical staff that was attending to him and he had to be forcibly restrained,” Roanoke police Capt. Monti Lee said Monday.
Wellons is scheduled to stand trial on all four charges in October, according to court records. Aggravated involuntary manslaughter in Virginia carries a penalty of one to 20 years in prison.