Oklahoma Highway Patrol: Big Rig Brakes in 10-Fatality Accident OK

July 2, 2009

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said June 30 that it found no problems with the brakes on a tractor-trailer that plowed into stalled cars in an accident on the Will Rogers Turnpike that killed 10 people.

Capt. Craig Medcalf, who leads the patrol’s Motor Carrier Enforcement Division, said the assessment was based on an examination of the big rig’s brake pads, which he said appeared to be in good condition. Medcalf said the damage to the undercarriage of the tractor was so extensive that troopers couldn’t test the performance of the brakes.

Medcalf said the tractor was a 2009 model and the trailer was a 2008 model.

“The indications from troopers was that everything was in proper working order,” Medcalf said. “There really was not an indication there was anything mechanically wrong.”

Authorities have said it appears the truck driven by 76-year-old Donald Creed of Ash Grove, Mo., didn’t slow on the afternoon of June 26 before it ran into traffic that had stopped for an earlier accident on the turnpike, also known as Interstate 44, in far northeastern Oklahoma near Miami. Prosecutors have said Creed could face misdemeanor negligent homicide charges.

Tina Freeman, a spokeswoman for Freeman Health Systems, said Creed was treated at Freeman Hospital in Joplin, Mo., for injuries sustained in the crash and released on June 27.

A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for Creed declined to answer any questions.

Meanwhile, a seven-person team from the National Transportation Safety Board has joined local Highway Patrol investigators looking into the accident. While it’s unusual for the NTSB to investigate highway accidents, spokeswoman Bridge Serchak said, the scope of the Oklahoma crash likely resulted in the decision to do so.

Serchak said the federal investigators will work with the turnpike authority and highway engineers looking at roadway design plans, profiles and accident statistics; document the tractor-trailer and some of the passenger vehicles involved in the accident; examine other vehicles from the accident to look at survivable space; examine human performance; and document company and driver records.

She said investigators want to interview Creed, but that those plans have not been confirmed. She said it’s likely members of the NTSB will remain in Oklahoma through the upcoming holiday weekend.

Creed was driving a truck for Kansas City, Kan.-based Associated Wholesale Grocers. Steve Dillard, the company’s vice president for corporate sales development, did not return a phone message left at his office.

In a three-sentence statement Monday, the company expressed condolences to the families of those killed and injured and said it was working with authorities.

The crash killed Shelby Hayes, 35, of Frisco, Texas; her husband, Randall Hayes, 38; their son, Ethan Hayes, 7; and Shelby Hayes’ mother, Cynthia Olson, 55, of Crossroads, Texas.

Other victims included Oral Hooks, 69, Earlene Hooks, 63, Antonio Hooks, 42, and Dione Hooks, 41, all of Oklahoma City; and Ricardo Reyes, 39, and Ernestia Reyes, both of Phoenix. The Reyes’ 12-year-old daughter, Andrea, was injured in the crash.

Missouri authorities have said Creed had a clean driving record and had his commercial driver’s license renewed in April. He initially obtained the CDL in 1991.

The accident was not the deadliest ever on an Oklahoma highway. In 1974, a large grass fire along Interstate 40 between El Reno and Oklahoma resulted in 13 fatalities, retired patrol Trooper S.T. Bolding said.

Also, 14 people died on May 26, 2002, when a 500-foot span of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma collapsed after a barge collided with one of the bridge piers.

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