A 30-year-old Warren man who jumped out of his asphalt-loaded truck allowing it to continue uncontrolled causing a catastrophic six-car accident on U.S. 278 West in October 2012 has been charged with manslaughter and four counts of aggravated assault.
The crash occurred on the east side of the train crossing at Wilmar on shortly after noon on October 29, 2012 when Bryant R. Childs failed to stop at the train crossing. Childs was driving a 1988 Peterbilt towing an unlicensed dump trailer loaded with asphalt. The total weight was 79,420 pounds.
According to a preliminary State Police the report, Childs’ Peterbilt collided with a minivan driven by 66-year-old Elizabeth Davis, of Warren. The impact pushed Davis’ vehicle into an International truck driven by Windell L. Epting, 44, of Cuba, Ala. At the same time, the left side the Peterbilt that Childs was operating struck a Peterbilt truck driven by Michael Carter, 57, of Crossett and a Ford pickup driven by Brandon Lloyd, 31, of Hamburg which resulted in Epting’s International truck hitting the back of a passenger car driven by Randi Atkins, 21, of Monticello. All of the vehicles were at the railroad track in a westbound direction.
Davis was killed in the crash. Epting and Childs were both transported by ambulance to Drew Memorial Hospital. Carter, Lloyd and Atkins were not injured
Following the crash, 10th Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen requested a State Police investigation, including a reconstruction of the crash.
According to the reconstruction report, Elizabeth Davis was stopped on U.S. 278 inside the westbound lane behind two trucks at the railroad crossing. There were also two vehicles stopped in the outside lane.
Childs was traveling west in the inside lane approaching the stopped vehicles. He braked and skidded approximately 413 feet and jumped from the cab of the moving vehicle, landing in the center turn lane.
Child’s truck continued, uncontrolled, in a northwesterly direction and struck the rear of Davis’ vehicle and traveled over the vehicle crushing the roof while pushing it into the outside lane and causing her vehicle to collide with another vehicle in the outside lane.
Childs’ vehicle came to rest on top of the Davis vehicle.
The speed limit in that area of the highway was 45 miles per hour. Had Childs been traveling within the posted speed limit his vehicle could have stopped prior to striking the Davis vehicle, according to the accident reconstruction report.
Childs reported that he had been traveling at a speed of 50 to 52 miles per hour. At those speeds, a vehicle operating with the minimum legal braking performance would come to a stop 308 to 333 feet prior to the crash, according to the report.
“The fact that Childs applied his brakes 739 feet prior to the collision proves he was aware of the hazard ahead. Mr. Childs chose to abandon his vehicle and allow it to continue uncontrolled toward the occupied vehicles stopped at the railroad crossing waiting on the passing train. There were no intersecting streets on the south side of the highway and eastbound traffic was stopped for the railroad crossing so steering left to avoid the crash was an available option. The north side of the highway was bordered by a wooded area so steering to the right was also an option. Both of these avenues of escape were ignored with catastrophic results,” the report reads.
Deen charged Childs with one count of manslaughter for the death of Davis. Manslaughter is a Class C felony punishable by three to 10 years in prison a maximum $10,000 fine.
Deen also charged Childs with four counts of aggravated assault for creating a substantial danger of death or injury to Windell Epting, Brandon Lloyd, Michael Carter, and Randi Atkins. Aggravated assault is a Class D felony which carries a maximum six-year sentence and $10,000 fine.