The truck driver whose tractor trailer crashed into a bus and killed four members of the North Central Texas College softball team in Oklahoma last year has been charged with four counts of first-degree manslaughter.
Authorities in Murray County, Okla., charged Russell Wayne Staley, 53, of Saginaw, Texas, Thursday in Murray County District Court for the deaths of the players in the Oklahoma bus crash. The players were returning to Gainesville, Texas, Sept. 26, 2014 after a scrimmage in Oklahoma.
Mr. Staley was driving northbound on Interstate 35 when for unknown reasons his truck veered into the median and drove more than 1,100 feet at 73 mph before rolling into the southbound lanes. His tractor trailer collided with the side of the bus, causing it to flip onto its side.
Mr. Staley told investigators that he had been distracted by something in the cab of his truck. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate the crash. In a preliminary report the board said there was no sign that the driver attempted to brake, swerve, or take other evasive maneuvers.
A local fireman who responded to the crash said that Mr. Staley appeared to be in a “zombie state.” Police inspecting the cab later found several different prescription drugs in Mr. Staley’s bag, some of which cause drowsiness, and reported the odor of marijuana smoke.
Authorities ran toxicology tests on Mr. Staley but those results have not been made public. Mr. Staley has no criminal record and there are no violations on his driving record.
His employer, Quickway Carriers, is registered four times in Tennessee under the same address, News 8 Dallas reported. According to News 8, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) records show that those Quickway companies have been involved in 49 crashes over a two-year period, and that more than half of those crashes resulted in injuries.