A crash that killed six people on a Tennessee highway last year occurred because a fatigued Kentucky truck driver had taken methamphetamine and failed to slow down in a construction zone, federal investigators said Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board approved the findings of its investigation into the June 2015 crash on Interstate 75 near Chattanooga. It also pushed for several safety changes, including the storage of driver crash and violation data in Kentucky for employers to review. The driver, Benjamin Brewer of London, had had several previous crashes.
“Our investigation reveals how this driver’s choices and actions, in the days and hours before the crash, led to the crash and loss of life,” NTSB chairman Christopher A. Hart said.
After probably going without “sustained rest” for 40 hours, Brewer was working for Cool Runnings Express Inc., also of London, when he failed to slow down with traffic entering a marked construction work zone. His truck first hit a Toyota Prius at speeds of 78 to 82 mph, and seven other vehicles and 18 people were involved. In addition to the six deaths, four people were injured. Brewer had stopped in Florida about 5:16 a.m. and was on his way to London when the crash occurred about 7:10 p.m. June 25, 2015. Brewer was arrested in Lexington.
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Brewer didn’t take evasive action to avoid the crash, the NTSB found.
After the crash, he tested positive for methamphetamine, according to the NTSB, which saidthe drug affected his driving ability.
There were indicators that Brewer was unsafe, the NTSB said.
An employee screening process failed to turn up that Brewer had been fired from a previous trucking job two years earlier because of illegal drug use. A hair test administered under an unrelated court order less than three months before the crash had also turned out positive for meth.
Kentucky made getting Brewer’s previous crash history impossible for his new employer, Cool Runnings, the NTSB said. Kentucky and Idaho are the only two jurisdictions that don’t automatically include crash data in driver records for employers to review. Brewer had had four crashes in the previous three years, two of which were in commercial vehicles.
Brewer is being held on $500,000 bond while awaiting trial in Chattanooga. His attorneys did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
He was charged with six counts of vehicular homicide after the crash.