News 4 San Antonio is reporting that a truck driver involved in a crash that killed 13 church members has pleaded not guilty of intoxication and manslaughter charges stemming from the case (http://news4sanantonio.com/news/local/driver-in-deadly-church-bus-crash-pleads-not-guilty).
Back in late March, truck driver Jack Young was driving northbound on Highway 83 just north of Uvalde in Texas when he struck a church bus carrying 14 people head-on, causing the death of 13 senior members of the First Baptist Church New Braunfels. According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, Young had checked his cell phone for a text message just moments before the deadly collision. He also told law enforcement officials that he had taken prescription medications before the accident, which were found along with marijuana in his truck at the crash site. The medications he reportedly took were Clonazepam and generic versions of the drugs Lexapro and Ambien. In a sworn statement, a state trooper at the scene stated he had probable cause to believe the truck driver was intoxicated. A neighbor also confirmed that Young had traveled to Uvalde to get his prescriptions filled that very morning.
The report also notes the truck and bus were free of any mechanical defects; the results from toxicology reports on Young are still pending. According to the witness footage included in the report, Young’s truck crossed over lanes 37 times and hit the grass on the side of the road at least five times. The truck driver did stay around the posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour in the witness footage, although his speeds varied between 67 to 71 miles per hour in videos that were given to law enforcement officials by other drivers. One such driver, Jody A. Kuchler, repeatedly contacted local authorities about Young’s erratic driving, but no patrol cars were close enough by the area to intervene in time. According to Kuchler, who witnessed the accident, Young admitted to texting while driving shortly after the crash occurred.
Each of the 26 charges that Young is facing in connection with the accident carry penalties ranging from two to 20 years. The victims were returning to their hometown of New Braunfels, Texas, after taking part in a religious retreat when the accident occurred. Only one passenger survived the horrific accident.
Young is currently awaiting trial on the charges and has been released on bail, which was set at $380,000 by the court. His release also came with several conditions, including GPS location monitoring, weekly urine tests and a curfew that does not allow him outside after 7pm or before 7am. The 20-year-old also must install a device on his car that prevents it from being driven by an intoxicated driver while he remains free.
Truck and bus accidents can have serious, long-lasting consequences for victims and their families. If you have been involved in a serious auto accident, speak to an experienced auto injury attorney, like a trucking accident lawyer Denver CO trusts, as soon as you can about your case and all of your rights.
Thanks to our friend and contributors from Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into truck accident and personal injury practice.