by Tom Finkel
Remember that horrific wreck July 15 when a tractor-trailer slammed into stopped traffic on Highway 40? The wreck killed three people and injured fifteen others. The driver of the truck -- Jeffrey Knight of Muscle Shoals, Alabama -- escaped uninjured.
The public may soon know what triggered the initial collision. Sergeant Al Nothum of the Missouri Highway Patrol says his agency is wrapping up its investigation and should file a report to St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch by the end of this month.
"We'll present the prosecutor with a report several hundred pages long," says Nothum. "It's up to him to determine if he'll file charges." Should McCulloch prosecute the accident, Nothum speculates that charges could range from careless and imprudent driving to manslaughter.
In the days immediately following the accident, rumors circulated that Knight may have been using a cell phone at the time of the crash. Nothum says those rumors are unfounded, but that the highway patrol did find that "driver inattention" played a role in the crash.
"At this time we're not releasing what he was doing at the time of the accident, but I can tell you he was not talking on or using a cell phone," says Nothum, who goes on to explain that "driver inattention" might involve any of a number of distractions such as adjusting the radio, reading, looking down and eating.
In related news, at least four victims of the crash have sued Knight and his former employer, Holmes Transport & Logistics Inc., in federal and state court in St. Louis alleging negligence and carelessness. Don Holmes, owner of Alabama-based Holmes Transport, says Knight was fired from the company soon after the wreck and that he has not been in contact with him in several weeks.
Holmes Transport's insurance carrier has hired St. Louis attorney Gary Wiseman to represent the company and Knight in civil suits. Wiseman, of the downtown law firm Noonan & Wiseman, declined to comment on any of the cases. Jeffrey Knight could not be reached for comment.