A truck driver who fell asleep behind the wheel of his semi and killed seven children has been sentenced to seven years in prison — one year for each child, The Florida Times-Union reports in an article written by Paul Pinkham.
In January 2006, Alvin Wilkerson was 25 miles into an 85-mile trip hauling bottled water for Crete Carrier Corp. when he slammed into the back of a van that was stopped behind a school bus. He had been awake for nearly 34 hours and fell asleep while driving.
In the van were the 15-year-old driver, Nikki Mann, her siblings, Elizabeth Mann, 15, Johnny Mann, 13, and Heaven Mann, 3; two cousins, Ashley Keen, 14, and Miranda Finn, 10; and the Manns’ foster brother, Anthony Lamb, 20 months.
Both the van and tractor-trailer rammed into the school bus. The van burst into flames and killed everyone inside. Ten children on the school bus were also hurt, some severely.
Wilkerson was charged with seven counts of vehicular homicide and 10 counts of misdemeanor culpable negligence.
State Attorney William Cervone of Gainsville said that the conviction may be the first case in Florida where someone went to prison for falling asleep behind the wheel.
Cervone also indicated that the prison sentence doesn’t end the pursuit of justice in the case. Wilkerson has already discussed his sleep deprivation with prosecutors.
Assistant State Attorney Geoffrey Fleck added:
“We’re hoping that this will send a message to the trucking companies that if they drive sleep-deprived drivers, they could be not only civilly but criminally liable.”
That message is vital. Companies that pressure truckers to break the hours-of-service rules put the lives of innocent men, women and children at risk. Those companies should have to face criminal charges.
If you have been hurt or a loved one has been hurt or died as a result of a truck driver’s carelessness, contact Carey, Danis & Lowe Missouri/Illinois trucking-accident lawyers online or by calling 877-678-3400.