May 22, 2019
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Police: Truck driver in crash that killed two was drunk, speeding

Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority | BDN
Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority | BDN
Randall Weddle

WASHINGTON, Maine — The driver of a flatbed truck who crashed into oncoming traffic in March, killing two people, was speeding, had a revoked driver’s license and was drunk at the time of the incident, according to police.

The police report on the case had been impounded until the driver, Randall Junior Weddle, was arrested Friday. The information was included with an affidavit filed by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to obtain an arrest warrant for the 54-year-old that was unsealed Monday in Knox County Unified Court.

Weddle, with a last known address of Greenville, Tennessee, was taken into custody Friday by the Russell County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia and charged with two counts of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated operating under the influence for the March 18 crash.

Weddle is being held without bail at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon, Virginia, pending an extradition hearing in that state. The suspect then is expected to be brought to the Knox County Jail in Rockland to await an initial appearance in Knox County Unified Court. Bail will be set here at $100,000 cash when he arrives in court, according to court papers.

Killed in the crash were Christina Torres-York, 45, of Warren and Paul Fowles, 74, of Owls Head.

The affidavit states that Weddle’s blood-alcohol level was 0.09 when a blood sample was taken from him by an emergency medical services worker at the scene of the crash on Route 17 by the intersection of the Fitch Road. A sample taken more than an hour later at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston had his blood alcohol level at 0.073. The driver also had hydrocodone in his system, according to the police report.

Under Maine law, a person is considered operating under the influence if the blood alcohol level is at 0.08 or greater. Knox County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tim Carroll said the level for a commercial driver operating a commercial vehicle is 0.04 in Maine.

Both an emergency medical worker and a deputy detected an odor of intoxicants on Weddle’s breath at the scene of the crash, according to the affidavit.

Weddle told investigators at the hospital that he had not been feeling well and had taken a drug called Lortab, which contains hydrocodone. Weddle said he had come from Tennessee and made a delivery in Massachusetts before coming to Maine to pick up lumber in Searsmont before heading back to Tennessee to deliver the load.

Weddle was driving a truck registered to Rick Mullenix trucking from Kingsforth, Tennessee, Carroll said. Mullenix could not be reached for comment Monday.

Weddle’s truck had been traveling 81 mph shortly before the crash and was operating at 73 mph when the crash occurred, according to the affidavit. That information was obtained from data downloaded from the engine control module, according to the affidavit.

A witness who was driving a car behind the truck said that he was driving 60 mph along Route 17 and that the tractor-trailer left him behind in a short time. The speed limit is 55 mph on that section of Route 17.

Another motorist reported that the tractor-trailer had swerved into the oncoming lane before the crash.

The police affidavit also reported that Weddle’s motor vehicle license had been revoked in Virginia and was suspended in Louisiana. He had a valid license in Tennessee, however.

Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody said that Weddle’s license had been revoked in Virginia for prior convictions but declined to detail those offenses as to not affect any future jurors who might need to be selected for a trial. Baroody said that Weddle’s license should have been revoked in Tennessee as well as part of a reciprocal agreement between the states. He said there must have been some administrative error that caused the failure to revoke the Tennessee license.

Weddle was driving west on Route 17 near Fitch Road when the 1998 Freightliner loaded with lumber veered into the eastbound lane, according to police. Fowles was driving east in a 2009 Chevrolet Colorado and was the first vehicle in line struck by the truck.

The trailer and load of lumber then struck a 1998 Chrysler van that was behind Fowles and being driven by Torres-York. The van was pushed into a nearby field and burst into flames.

A 2014 Nissan driven by Tracy Cook, 51, of Union also was struck by the trailer and it rolled over once before hitting another vehicle that had been following, a 2015 Kia driven by Tracy Morgan, 33, of Washington. Morgan was able to avoid being struck by the trailer after she took evasive action, but not the Nissan as it rolled over. Both the Nissan and Kia came to rest in the field to the right. Morgan was uninjured in the crash. Cook was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.

Weddle was taken by a LifeFlight helicopter to CMMC in Lewiston. A passenger in the Freightliner, Lowell Babb, 32, of Virginia, was taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport and treated for minor injuries.

A combined investigation conducted by members of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Maine State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and Crash Reconstruction divisions provided enough information to the district attorney’s office to draft warrants for Weddle’s arrest, Carroll said.

The maximum possible sentence for manslaughter is 30 years in prison.

 



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