A former law enforcement officer wept while apologizing during a court hearing in Buncombe County District Court on January 21 to the families of the victims of a fatal crash: a toddler who died in the wreck and another child who suffered debilitating personal injuries to the brain.
According to a North Carolina state trooper, 60-year-old Carroll Edward Jett was simply not paying attention to the road while driving on July 1 when he crashed his tractor-trailer into a line of cars stopped for a highway project on Interstate 40 east of Asheville.
Kelly Rhodes of the N.C. Highway Patrol said that the West Virginia man was checking a message on his truck’s onboard computer when he struck the first vehicle at an estimated 60 mph, which turned it into “a battering ram” that caused another vehicle to go airborne.
Jett was a member of the West Virginia State Police before he became a trucker. On January 21, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor death by vehicle in the death of 15-month-old Haiden Bailey. He received a suspended jail sentence, supervised probation, 200 hours of community service, and a fine of $500.
Dawn Buchanan, the mother of another victim, Devon Buchanan, said that her son suffered debilitating injuries and a lack of oxygen to his brain rendered him immobile and unresponsive. She said that he now depends upon others to carry him or push him in a wheelchair in order to move from place to place, he is unable to speak, and he has to be fed through a feeding tube.
The seven-car wreck resulted in 11 people requiring hospital transport, several of which suffered critical injuries.
According to Assistant District Attorney Chris Hess, Jett’s driving record was clean and a blood test revealed that he had no drugs or alcohol in his system. Hess said that he was cooperative with authorities.
According to Jett’s attorney, he voluntarily surrendered his commercial truck driver’s license and has no desire to ever drive a truck again.
According to Hess, the suspended sentence, community service, and fine was all that Jett could receive as a penalty against a driver with no previous record for a misdemeanor charge.