Oklahoma Accident Victims’ Families Sue Truck Driver, Employer

October 8, 2009

Family members of the 10 people who were killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into a line of stopped cars on a turnpike have sued the truck’s driver and his employer.

A 10-page lawsuit filed in Cleveland County District Court names Donald L. Creed, of Willard, Mo.; Kansas City, Kan.-based Associated Wholesale Grocers; two insurance companies, a California company and two individuals as defendants.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10,000.

Creed, 76, has been charged with 10 misdemeanor counts of negligent homicide in connection with the June 26 accident on the Will Rogers Turnpike (Interstate 44) in Ottawa County, in the northeastern tip of Oklahoma. He pleaded not guilty in September.

Creed’s attorney in the criminal case couldn’t be reached for comment. A message left for Steve Dillard, vice president for corporate sales at Associated Wholesale Grocers, was not immediately returned.

According to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report, Creed’s cruise control appeared to be set at about 70 mph – 5 mph below turnpike limit – before the 1:16 p.m. accident.

Investigators found no evidence that Creed tried to brake or take evasive action before hitting the other cars, which had stopped because of an earlier crash, the Highway Patrol report said.

Those killed included Frisco, Texas, resident Randall Hayes, 38; his wife, Shelby, 35; their son, Ethan Hayes, 7; and his mother-in-law, Cynthia Olson, 55, of Crossroads, Texas.

Also killed were Oral Hooks, 69, of Oklahoma City; his wife, Earlene, 63, and two sons, Antonio, 42, and Dione, 41.

Phoenix residents Ricardo Reyes, 39, and Ernestina Reyes also perished, but their 12-year-old daughter, Andrea, survived.

According to the lawsuit, Creed “failed to slow and maintain control of his truck as he drove his tractor-trailer rig into the slowed or stopped traffic at an unsafe speed.”

Associated Wholesale Grocers is accused of failing to properly select, train and supervise Creed and for “launching Creed in the AWG truck at 3 a.m. from Springfield, Mo. … and requir(ing) Creed to work throughout the day up until the time of the collision.”

The lawsuit also names as defendants Pennsylvania-based ACE American Insurance Co., an insurer for Associated Wholesale Grocers; California-based G.D. Transport Inc.; Nebraska-based National Liability and Fire Insurance Co., an insurer for G.D. Transport; trucker and California resident Rajeev Sharma and motorist Erin Alf of Texas.

According to the lawsuit, Alf and Sharma, working for G.D. Transport, were driving vehicles involved in the initial accident that caused traffic to back up on the highway. Attempts to reach Alf and Sharma were unsuccessful.

Alf was cited in the accident, John W. Norman, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said in an e-mail response to questions.

Norman declined to specify the amount being sought by the plaintiffs. He said the victims’ families decided to file the lawsuit jointly because it “is a means of obtaining efficiency and economy in the administration and handling of the case, and demonstrates the enormity and gravity of the loss, and harm caused.”

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