September 30, 2014 – As his family prepared to mark the one-year anniversary of the truck crash that killed seven members of his family, Gerald Williams suffered another heartbreak when he learned that Christine Haskell, the Prosecuting Attorney for Jasper County, Indiana, had decided not to press criminal charges on the truck driver responsible for the crash. Given the extreme loss and the discovery of several potential violations and safety issues, including fatigue and speed, which may have contributed to the fatal crash, the possibility that no charges would be filed had not been considered by the family. Williams, the father of Lindsey and Yvette Williams and grandfather of Yazmin and Arielle Goldman and Jamin and Jazmin Osborne, decided to start a petition urging Haskell to reconsider her decision. The petition has already accrued more than 1,700 signatures and Williams is hopeful that support will continue.
“I am overwhelmed by the support that we’ve received for the petition,” said Williams, a former truck driver. “And I hope that many more folks will sign on to join our family’s appeal for justice. It’s validating to know that so many people are as outraged as we are that no charges have been filed, and that they stand with us in our belief that justice should be served. Nothing will bring back my girls and my grandchildren, but I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that no other family has to experience the catastrophic loss that my family and I have suffered, and will have to endure for the rest of our lives.”
On August 15, 2013, a semi-truck rear-ended an SUV containing seven members of the extended Williams family in Jasper County, Indiana. The crash occurred after the family’s vehicle stopped in traffic while approaching a work zone. The initial impact pushed their vehicle into another semi ahead of them, causing the SUV to burst into flames and killing Lindsey Williams, 27, and her two children, Yazmin Goldman, 5, and Arielle Goldman, 3, Lindsay’s sister, Yvette Williams, 35, and her two children, Jamin Osborne, 5, and Jazmin Osborne, 7, and the Williams sisters’ Uncle, Amado Mangual, 49.
The Williams point to the fact that there were no skid marks on the road after the crash, which indicates that the driver failed to slow down or brake before colliding with the family’s vehicle. This led the Williams family to consider that the truck driver was inattentive and possibly fatigued at the time of the crash. Truck driver fatigue has been an industry-wide health and safety issue for over 70 years. A 2006 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study revealed that 65 percent of truck drivers reported they often or sometimes feel drowsy while driving and nearly half admitted they fell asleep while driving in the previous year. Fatigue continues to be a major contributor to the unacceptably high number of yearly truck crashes and the resulting fatalities and injuries. From 2009 to 2012, truck crash fatalities increased by 16 percent, and truck crash injuries increased by 40 percent, resulting in 104,000 injuries in 2012.
It is also believed that the semi-truck hit the family’s vehicle at Interstate speeds, and that the driver had not reduced his speed as it was required and posted in the work zone where the crash occurred. The truck driver had a history of prior speeding violations, at least five since 2006. Trucks are over represented in fatal highway crashes and even more so in work zone fatal crashes, like in the Williams family’s case. Although trucks account for about four percent of registered vehicles, they are involved in 11 percent of fatal highway crashes, and 27 percent of fatal work zone crashes involve at least one truck.
“We believe that Ms. Haskell’s failure to press charges sends a very dangerous message to the trucking industry, that you can kill seven people and just walk away,” Williams said. “We hope that this petition will send a different message to truck drivers out there — that all actions have consequences, and you will be held accountable in the public and civil realm, even if there is lack of accountability within the criminal justice system. No one else should needlessly die because of a preventable truck crash.”
The Truck Safety Coalition (www.trucksafety.org), a partnership between the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.
Read and sign the petition here.