The company that owns the tractor-trailer that killed one woman in a 35-vehicle crash this week has been cited at least 23 times in recent years.
The massive crash, which occurred near exit 68 of the Long Island Expressway, was blamed on a tractor-trailer that was carrying mulch or wood chips–debris from Superstorm Sandy–and which quickly caught fire after slamming into one or multiple vehicles, explained News12 Long Island. The driver of the truck, Raymond Simoneau, 42, survived the crash and a reason for the accident has not been determined.
The massive accident sent a fireball into the sky and closed the highway down through the night. Inspector Kevin Fallon of the Suffolk County Police, said in a news conference that night that a “tractor trailer traveling eastbound apparently struck a number of different vehicles. We believe that number is in excess of 25…. We have 16 people who have been injured, two people have serious physical injury, and I can confirm that there’s been one fatality. The injured people have been brought to area hospitals—to Brookhaven Hospital, to Peconic Hospital, and to Stony Brook. There have been five different fire departments that responded to the scene and 19 different EMS agencies have also responded to the scene.” News12 Long Island reported 37 injuries, some requiring airlift transport to area hospitals.
Christa Zepf, 68, of Blue Point, New York was killed in the fiery wreck. Robert Murphy, 57, another driver, of Lloyd Harbor, New York, was critically injured, said Newsday.
Vermont-based Jewell Transportation Inc., has been cited for at least 23 unsafe driving violations in the past two years, alone, according to federal safety records, said Newsday. The firm was cited for speeding, tailgating, failure to obey traffic-control laws, and failure to use hazard flashers; vehicles owned by Jewell Transportation Inc., have been involved in no less than seven other accidents since January 2011. One accident, said Newsday, was another fatal crash in upstate New York on July 25, citing records compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Both Jewell and Simoneau have retained the same attorney.
Jewell Transportation also faced suspension for two unpaid tickets; one for an overweight vehicle, said Newsday, according to separate records put together by he Department of Motor Vehicles in Vermont. Records indicate that the firm is now in compliance and the tickets were eventually paid.
According to the company’s web site, Jewell’s fleet consists of more than 55 trucks and 100 trailers. Based on the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration—the Administration tracks trucking violations—grading system, Jewell performed worse in the “unsafe driving” category than most—86.9 percent—comparable transportation firms since last January. Jewell is also a subcontractor for Looks Great Services of Huntington. Looks Great, noted Newsday, has a $20 million contract to “clear trees, stumps, and debris” from Nassau County’s Eisenhower Park, said a county source.
Gregory Miglino Jr. of the South County Ambulance service told Newsday that the accident caused about a-half dozen critical injuries and said the crash was the worst he’s seen in his 22 years on the job.
Fire Chief John Mirando of Ridge, New York told News12 Long Island that the calls to 911 started coming in at 2:38 in the afternoon. Three vehicles—the tractor and two cars in front of the tractor—appeared to be on fire. Three vehicles behind the tractor were in the process of being worked on for extrication via the Jaws of Life when Chief Mirando arrived at the scene. “This is one of the most horrific scenes I’ve been on and I’ve been in close to 21 years now and for the amount of victims we have to deal with,” Chief Miranda told News12 Long Island the night of the crash.