An April 17 jury trial has been set for the driver of a semitrailer truck that slammed into a Greyhound bus near Evanston killing seven passengers Dec. 18.
Robert W. Williams, 47, 6885 S. Redwood Road, West Jordan, was charged following the deadly crash with Class-B misdemeanors for driving on a suspended license, driving too fast for conditions and failing to keep a driver's log, according to the Summit County attorney's office.Williams was driving a truck loaded with frozen hams west on I-80 in a snowstorm when the truck slid down an embankment and collided with an oncoming Greyhound bus, killing the seven passengers nearest the point of impact.
The trial was scheduled independent of an ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation that has found, so far, that Williams had a long history of suspensions and speeding violations in other states, said lead NTSB investigator Howard McGlothlin.
McGlothlin said witnesses disagree with Williams' claim to investigators that he lost control after he was cut off by a minivan that had passed him too closely on icy roads. They said the truck had closely followed that van for miles at a high rate of speed.
NTSB investigators are still gathering facts for the full board in Washington, which will decide the probable causes of the crash and factors that could have improved survivability. A report of facts should be on its way to the board in Washington within about two months.
From his Denver office, McGlothlin told the Deseret News about facts found so far that help show events that led to the crash.
A family of five that was traveling west on I-80 several minutes before the 9:25 a.m. crash said they were being tailed closely by a minivan that was in turn tailed closely by the truck. Williams was driving his truck en route to stores in Utah from Denver.
While Williams later told the NTSB he had lost control when the minivan in front of him passed too close and started fish-tailing, McGlothlin said witnesses in the other car said "the truck was behind the minivan all the way."
McGlothlin also noted that the hams carried in the truck driven by Williams were frozen and packed in crates. "That's important, because free-hanging hams could have caused some problems with load shifting."
McGlothlin said the NTSB investigation found Williams was driving improperly on a suspended license and had seven speeding violations in months prior to the accident.
Also through court orders, he said the NTSB found Williams had numerous other suspensions and speeding violations in other states. In fact, McGlothlin said, Williams appeared to have had licenses in suspension at least a few months for every year since 1983.
McGlothlin said Williams' employer at the time, Wanship Enterprises, told NTSB investigators that it had found speeding tickets when it searched Williams' driving record, but since they were not related to alcohol or drugs had considered them "just part of the territory" for a truck driver.
Williams has since been "placed on waivers" from his driving job with Wanship, said company owner Mike Peery, who told the Deseret News that neither he nor Williams knew Williams' license had been suspended.
McGlothlin noted that while Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require employers to yearly check their drivers' traffic records, nothing prohibits them from hiring drivers with poor records.
"We knew that he had three tickets when we hired him. Our requirement is to check (for violations) once a year. We do it every six months. Now we do it every 90 days - we learned a few things too."
McGlothlin, who added that the NTSB is looking into steps that could have increased survivability, said he is "amazed that there weren't more than seven fatalities."