The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has declared an Ohio-licensed commercial driver an imminent hazard to public safety following a fatal crash earlier this month where he slammed into a line of vehicles, killing four children. The driver was under the influence of drugs and was looking at his mobile phone.
On July 17, FMCSA ordered Corey Robert Withrow, 31, of Camden, Ohio, not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.
On July 9, Withrow was driving a 2004 Kenworth on Interstate 70 in Wayne County, Indiana, at speeds over the posted limit when he collided into a line of vehicles slowed or stopped in a construction work zone.
Four minor children, siblings in a private vehicle, were killed, and their father was severely burned in the ensuing multi-vehicle fire.
Withrow, eastbound pulling a loaded box trailer in the right lane, came upon traffic that was slowed but moving as it merged left where a construction zone funneled traffic to one lane. He didn’t slow down and hit the slowed Chevrolet, pushing it into the left-rear corner of another tractor pulling tandem trailers that also was slowed to merge. The second of the tandem trailers was ripped off its axle as Withrow’s truck continued pushing the Chevrolet through the left lane and into the median, where both vehicles caught fire. The driver of the second truck was not injured.
“It was a tough scene. It was very tough,” Sgt. John Bowling of the Indiana State Police said in an article in the Richmond Palladium-Item. “It can be emotionally draining on first responders when you’re on a scene as trying as that one. Any loss of life is tragic, but it’s especially hard when it’s children.”
Withrow admitted to Indiana State Police officers at the scene that he had been distracted by looking at his mobile telephone. He subsequently tested positive for controlled substances, specifically, amphetamines, methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, and cannabis.
He has been charged with four counts of Reckless Homicide, four counts of Causing Death When Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated, and one count of Causing Catastrophic Injury When Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated.
FMCSA’s out-of-service order says Withrow’s “blatant and egregious violations of the [federal safety regulations] and ongoing and repeated disregard for the safety of the motoring public … substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death to you and motoring public.”
Violation of the order could result in civil penalties of up to $1,848 for each violation and may also result in criminal penalties. Withrow also may be subject to a civil penalty enforcement proceeding brought by FMCSA for his violation of the safety regulations.