A truck driver never slowed down or attempted to avoid colliding with a vehicle stalled in traffic on a Missouri interstate, according to a preliminary report of the fatal crash that killed five.
Gregory R. Carlson, 56, wasn’t impaired at the time of the Dec. 27 crash, and should have had an unobstructed view of the small car. The Minnesota resident was hauling furniture for Double C Trucking LLC at the time of the crash.
Shante Hopkins, 24, was driving her three young children and her brother’s girlfriend from Kansas City to Warrensburg when her 1996 Mazda Protege stopped in traffic near Eastwood Trafficway. In addition to Hopkins, her children, Ja Riah, 2, Ja Nijah, who was going turn 2 years old in February and 7-month-old Tay Shawn, and family friend, 17-year-old Dominique Johnson also died in the crash.
A witness told police that the Mazda was traveling “at an extremely slow speed, nearly stopped, in the middle of the” outside lane of southbound I-435, according to the police report.
Another motorist reported having to swerve to avoid hitting the Mazda just before the crash, but Carlson didn’t slow.
“Driver 1 was determined to have failed to discern the stopped vehicle ahead despite a straight line of sight, and neither adjusted his speed nor altered his course in order to avoid the collision,” according to the Kansas City Police Department report.
Authorities are still working to determine why Hopkins’ vehicle broke down and why Carlson didn’t see the stalled vehicle.
Frantic phone calls from Hopkins and Johnson to loved ones in the moments before the crash apparently led loved ones to believe the Mazda was experiencing mechanical issues, but authorities will also determine whether she ran out of gas. Passing motorists said it appeared that Hopkins was trying to exit at Eastwood, which is about half a mile from the crash site.
Some grieving family members have asked whether the truck driver was distracted or dozing off at the time of the crash.
Hopkins’ driver’s license had been repeatedly suspended since 2010. She also failed to have insurance on multiple occasions when pulled over for traffic violations by multiple police departments in the area. Police have said that the status of Hopkins’ driver’s license is not a factor in their investigation.