Special to the Grove Sun
MIAMI — A retired Missouri truck driver likely will enter into a plea agreement in connection with the tractor-trailer wreck last year that killed 10 people on Interstate 44, his attorney said Friday.
Donald Leroy Creed, 77, of Willard, Mo., crashed his rig into a line of stalled vehicles near the Miami exit on June 26, 2009. The vehicles were stopped because of an earlier wreck, Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers said.
"We have been in discussion with the district attorney and things are going very well,” said Paul Brunton, Creed's attorney.
Eddie Wyant, Ottawa County district attorney, said the two sides are discussing a plea but an agreement has not been reached.
Neither side would discuss any details of the agreement, including whether prison time is involved.
Creed is charged in Ottawa County District Court with 10 misdemeanor counts of negligent homicide. He does not have a listed telephone number.
Creed retired from the Kansas City-based Associated Wholesale Grocers shortly after the wreck, Brunton said.
Steve Dillard, Associated Wholesale Grocers vice president for corporate sales development, did not return telephone calls. Brunton declined to discuss Creed's medical condition at the time of the crash, citing the criminal case.
"I can't remember a single collision with a higher death toll,” said Lt. George Brown, highway patrol spokesman. "It was the worst traffic accident I have ever worked.”
Witnesses said motorists pulled children out of the rear windows of cars after the wreck. Stuffed animals and boxes of diapers were among the items strewn along the interstate.
The crash happened about 1 p.m. and the heat coming off the asphalt was between 110 and 115 degrees, Brown said.
County, state and tribal rescue units battled the heat for hours as they tended to the injured and pulled bodies from wrecked vehicles. Medical helicopters were lined up on the highway.
Good Samaritans delivered bottled water to victims and exhausted workers. Cars overheated as a three-mile line of eastbound traffic stood still for nearly seven hours. The westbound lane was closed nearly two hours, Brown said.
"We were also concerned with people trapped in traffic,” Brown said. "We had one pregnant woman, she was a major concern, but she was OK.”
The truck driver
Eight minutes before the crash, Creed concluded a 22-minute cell phone call. He had been working since 3 a.m., troopers said.
Three cars were pinned beneath Creed's rig. After the wreck, he told investigators he didn't know what happened and thought the cars drove under him.
Troopers noted no skids on the highway and no defects were found in the tractor-trailer rig.
Witnesses said they never saw brake lights. They said the truck changed lanes without signaling and was traveling at a high rate of speed, according to an arrest warrant.
The cruise-control indicated Creed was traveling 71 mph at the time of the crash. The speed limit is 75 mph on the turnpike.
A lawsuit on behalf of three families who died in the crash has been filed in Cleveland County District Court against Creed and others. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10,000. A jury trial is set for Sept. 20.
Synthia and Heather Tate, who were injured in the crash, filed a lawsuit in Cleveland County.
Those who died June 26, 2009, in a wreck involving a tractor-trailer on the Will Rogers Turnpike:
?Ricardo Reyes, 49, Phoenix
?Ernestina Reyes, 51, Phoenix
?Randall Hayes, 38, Frisco, Texas
?Shelby Hayes, 34, Frisco, Texas
?Ethan Hayes, 6, Frisco, Texas
?Cynthia Olson, 55, Crossroads, Texas
?Oral Hooks, 79, Oklahoma City
?Earlene Hooks, 73, Oklahoma City
?Antonio Hooks, 52, Oklahoma City
?Dione Hooks, 51, Oklahoma City