Federal officials have cited a Massachusetts automobile auction company with multiple safety violations and proposed more than a quarter million dollars in fines after five people were struck and killed by a runaway Jeep being exhibited at auction in May. Several others gathered for the auction were seriously injured.
The citations stem from a May 3 investigation triggered by a May 1 incident involving a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee that suddenly accelerated to about 40 mph and plowed into a crowd of people gathered inside the Lynnway Auto Auction in Billerica, Massachusetts.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it issued 16 citations to Lynnway for motor vehicle hazards, blocked exit routes, violations of the hazard communication standard, and recordkeeping. Proposed penalties for these violations total $267,081.
“This company was cited in 2014 for exposing employees to similar hazards,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston. “It is critically important that employers remain vigilant about safety and implement required safety measures.”
Hundreds of people had gathered inside the Lynnway facility for a weekly auction the company holds every Wednesday. Marian Ryan, Middlesex County District Attorney, said that the driver of the Jeep was a man in his 70s and an employee of the auction company. She said employees of the company drove the vehicles through the auction facility in marked red lanes as customers in marked blue lanes watch the paraded vehicles.
One auction employee told Boston’s WCVB Channel 5 that the driver of the Jeep was trying to avoid hitting other vehicles when it accelerated and collided with a group of people who were gathered between the driving lanes.
The deadly accident remains under investigation. The driver of the vehicle told Boston’s NECN that the Jeep Grand Cherokee “took off all by itself.” Investigators subsequently found that the employee shouldn’t have been operating a vehicle because his license was suspended.
According to TheTruthAboutCars.com, “the 76-year-old man — whose name remains withheld — had his license suspended in 2012 after numerous incidents a year earlier, including impeding traffic, missing inspection stickers, and a license plate violation. It was never reinstated. His driving record also shows seven other accidents dating back to 1987 and license suspensions on four separate occasions.”