One wrongful-death and one personal-injury lawsuit have been filed against a commercial trucking company and driver in the wake of a tragic Sept. 26 crash that killed four members of a college softball team and injured a dozen others in Oklahoma.
On Tuesday, the parents of 20-year-old Brooke Deckard filed a lawsuit in Tarrant County against Nashville, Tenn.-based Quickway Carriers and driver Russell Staley, 53, of Saginaw, Texas. Brooke was one of the four members of the North Central Texas College women’s softball team killed when Mr. Staley’s truck crossed the median on Interstate 35 and struck the team’s bus as it was headed home from a scrimmage against Southern Nazarene University.
Brooke’s parents allege that Mr. Staley was distracted and failed to control the 18-wheeler and that Quickway Carriers was negligent to allow Mr. Staley to drive. They are seeking more than $ 1 million in damages and have asked for a jury trial.
The other NCTC players killed in the crash were Meagan Richardson, 19; Katelynn Woodlee, 18; and Jaiden Pelton, 20.
Another lawsuit was filed on behalf of Rachel Hitt, 20, who was one of the NCTC women’s softball team members critically injured in the crash. Ms. Hitt is recovering at Norman Regional Hospital in Norman, Okla., with unspecified injuries. She was taken to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit in critical condition after the crash and has since been upgraded to fair condition.
Ms. Hitts’ parents filed the lawsuit, also naming Quickway Carriers and Mr. Staley as defendants.
“To the families of those who lost their loved ones, the NCTC players and coaching staff, words cannot express the heartache we feel for you,” Ms. Hitt’s parents said in a statement. “Our hearts are overwhelmed with grief and not being able to be with you during this time is difficult. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators said Mr. Staley’s truck, traveling north, drove across an 820-foot interstate median into the southbound lanes, struck the NCTC bus, and traveled an additional 300 feet after the collision without any signs of braking or trying to avoid crashing.
Mr. Staley told authorities he was distracted by something in the cabin before he veered off the highway, but his account of what happened doesn’t explain his lack of braking or attempt to avoid a crash.
The Associated Press asked NTSB investigator Donald Sumwalt if Mr. Staley may have been asleep or otherwise indisposed behind the wheel. “That’s going to be the million dollar question,” Mr. Sumwalt answered.