WHITLEY COUNTY, Ind. — James M. Hagwood, 50, of Plymouth, Ind., Sylvia Perales, 59, of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Jessica R. Craft, 36, of Silver Lake, Ind., tragically died April 13 when a semi hit the 2014 Toyota they were traveling in east of Columbia City.
Local authorities said the crash happened at about 6:45 a.m. while Hagwood was driving the Toyota east on U.S. 30.
Thomas S.L.H. Clifford, a 34-year-old truck driver from Rockford, Ohio, hit the Toyota with his semi while turning southbound off westbound IS 30 onto County Road 800 East.
Hagwood, Perales, and Craft sadly died shortly after the crash. Emergency personnel rushed two other Toyota passengers, Joseph J. Drummond, 29, of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Jessica R. Craft, 36, of Silver Lake, Ind., to a local hospital for treatment of serious injuries.
After hitting the Toyota, the semi also struck a 2010 GMC Terrain driven by Mabel Recinos, 34, of Fort Wayne, Ind., and a 2000 Chevrolet driven by Kenton L. Gibson, 34, of Woodburn, Ind. Both vehicles were stopped at the light on County Road 800 East.
Emergency personnel treated Clifford, Recinos, and Gibson for minor injuries at the scene of the crash.
An investigation into the crash is ongoing. No additional information has been released.
Thoughts on fatal semi-accident that killed three Toyota occupants
One man’s actions caused great mourning in the lives of countless innocent victims. The families left behind deserve answers. Answers from the driver and answers from the employer.
Clearly, this accident would have been avoided had the trucker displayed greater care and attention in the operation of his commercial vehicle. The recklessness of the trucker’s actions raises questions about the driver’s competency. Was the driver distracted, impaired, or fatigued? The police report may provide information concerning impairment, but determining fatigue or distraction will require a post-accident investigation of the driver and the vehicle. Thankfully, trucks are now equipped with dashcams and other systems that track the driver’s actions and provide accurate details of the events leading to the collision. These systems will be especially important here.
The employer’s actions will also need to be investigated. Under the law, families of the deceased have a right to bring suit against motor carriers who fail to exercise reasonable care in the hiring, training, and retention of drivers. If the employer failed to provide training, hired a reckless driver, or allowed a reckless driver to continue driving, a wrongful death claim against both the employer and driver is likely necessary. Holding negligent parties accountable for their actions ensures innocent families receive the justice and answers they deserve, and helps prevent further accidents from happening in the future.
I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and pray for their peace during this difficult time of grief.
Disclaimer: Our firm uses this blog to start important conversations about consumer safety. Those impacted by this accident, or an accident like it, can reach out to our firm for further information or to have this article removed. This content should not be construed as legal counsel or advice.