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Trucker in crash: ‘I might have blacked out’

Published: Tue, April 20, 2010 @ 12:04 a.m.


Crash Report

OSHP Crash Report (PDF)


Three Trumbull County Marine Corps recruits died after this Pontiac G6 was struck March 31 by a tractor trailer truck on state Route 5 in Leavittsburg. The damage shown here was caused not only by the crash, but also by the Jaws of Life and other equipment used to free the occupants.





Donald Williams

Donald P. Williams Jr., the Austintown man whose tractor-trailer hit the back of a car on state Route 5 on March 31, killing three Marine Corps recruits, told investigators that he thinks he might have “blacked out.”

Investigators also found two prescription medications used to treat infections and a bottle of the cold medicine NyQuil in the truck, though Williams said he didn’t use any drugs the day of the accident.

Williams was interviewed briefly at the accident scene and then again later at St. Joseph Health Center, where an investigator described him as groggy and “disoriented.”

Williams consented to having his blood tested and answered several questions posed by an investigator, but he refused to sign the statement after the investigator wrote down what Williams said.

In the statement, Williams said he was traveling west on state Route 5.

“The cars were stopped. All I remember is hitting the motorcycle,” Williams said, adding that he was wearing a seat belt and suffered injuries to his arms and hands.

“I think I might have blacked out,” Williams said when asked if he remembered anything else. When asked if he had ever blacked out before, Williams said no.

The highway patrol has not filed charges in the case. It did, however, say that a “contributing circumstance” in the crash was that Williams failed to stay a proper distance back from the recruiter’s car.

The highway patrol said the results of the blood test done on Williams are not available yet.

Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County prosecutor, said his office will take the findings of the investigation to a Trumbull County grand jury to determine whether any charges will be filed.

Also released by the highway patrol Monday was the statement of a witness who said he saw Williams’ truck hit the back of the recruiter’s car and heard the truck’s “Jake brake” come on.

Jeff Reider of Warren said he was in his vehicle on Burnett Road, stopped at the traffic light at Route 5, when he heard the Jake brake being applied.

“I heard the brakes. That’s why I looked up,” Reider said. “I heard brakes and looked up and watched a red and white semi didn’t even appear to have seen stopped cars and hit a red pickup truck and blue car into multiple other vehicles. After that, it was one bouncing off another.”

The red pickup truck was in front of the dark-blue Pontiac G6 that Marine recruiter Sgt. Charles Kenne of Youngstown was driving when the semi hit the back of both vehicles, the highway patrol said.

The Marine recruiter’s car was stopped at the traffic light with its brake lights lit at the time of the crash, the report says.

That information comes from the dash-mounted camera in the semi, which also suggests that the semi did not slow down before the crash.

“The speed appears to remain constant throughout the video, indicating the brakes were not applied,” an investigator wrote.

The driver of the pickup truck, Rudolph Palya of Windham, said he was just starting to move through the green light behind another vehicle and saw in his rear-view mirror that the semi was not going to stop in time to avoid the recruiter’s car.

“At that split second [impact with the recruiter’s car], I seen the semi start to raise up on the vehicle like a monster truck, and after that, it was chain-reaction impact.”

Kenne and a front-seat passenger in the G6, recruit Carl W. McDermott III, 19, of Masury, plus passengers in four other vehicles and a motorcycle were injured in the crash.

The crash killed the three back-seat passengers — Zachary A. Nolen, 19, of Mineral Ridge and Newton Falls, Joshua A. Sherbourne, 21, of Southington, and Michael T. Theodore Jr., 19, of Howland.

The two medicines in the semi, prescribed to Williams, were doxycycline and sulfamethoxazone, the highway patrol said. Both are used to treat infections.

The Web Site Drugs.com says some of the side effects of NyQuil are dizziness, drowsiness and excitability.


11970mach1(1005 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

If this story doesn't make you angry, nothing will.

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2kornersburgkid(57 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Look into Donald Williams' eyes--reminds one of Charles Mansons' disciples. Scary. Looks high as a kite.

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3Nunya(1356 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

This is an outrage,..

If involved in an accident the last thing you do is clam up and not talk to highway patrol. It's the only responsible and remorseful thing to do if one is ever involved in an accident whether they cause injury or fatalities or not.

I'd never think for a minute he'd targeted these innocent individuals to endure what he caused and one would think it's got to be disturbing to anyone to realize and accept that they're the cause.

However, his immediate and non persistent non cooperative conduct afterward makes it impossible for me to feel any compassion for him what so ever. Had it not been for the video from that dash cam, mechanical investigation and witness accounts to put this together. This horrific and most unfortunate ordeal would be unexplainable via his mass casualty causing conduct and non cooperative after actions account.

Even with his laundry list of deliberately being an absolute nuisance and hazard to society aside. I don't buy that " maybe I blacked out " line for a single minute.

If you blacked out you'd know it afterward and there's no question that from any honest heart. There would have and should have been an outpouring of apologies, concerns for the injured and full cooperation would have been the first thing rendered.

Where to top it off that guy with that antibiotic combination of pharmaceuticals prescribed. Leaves no question that he's both virus and bacterially infested. For those who's had any physical skin on skin contact with or direct close quarters exposure to him.

Needs to be medically screened for having possibly contracted a host of viral and bacterial infections of the venereal in origin strains of infestation.

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4Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

"Even with his laundry list of deliberately being an absolute nuisance and hazard to society aside."

Well read the papers around the world, especially on Thursday,Friday,Saturday nights and you want to talk about a hazard to society, get on the drunk drivers that kill innocent people every day.

This idiot shouldn't have been driving if he was that out of it. And as far as his personal issues, that's his business.

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5BillyBob(92 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

May God bless the familys of the victims

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6CassAnn(252 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

If the moron took Nyquil then he was asleep behind the wheel. I hope the toxicology report will cover the ingredients in Nyquil because it will be important for the prosecutor if he can prove Nyquil was in his system. He can have Nyquil in his truck, and he can take it before his ten hour break- but hes a moron if he took it and then got behind the wheel to drive. Anytime a truck driver consumes a medication that can cause drowsiness it should only be taken at the start of his mandatory 10 hour sleep period so there is time for the drug's effects to wear off before time to drive again.

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7Daughter1(14 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

I am more angry than I ever thought I could be. Please continue to pray for those that continue to suffer.

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8Daughter1(14 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Can anyone tell me why it is taking so long for the Toxicology reports for Williams to come in?

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9Nunya(1356 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago


In respecting your request,..

Toxicology studies are pathology processes that unfortunately aren't overnight procedures yet. Which by procedures required they take a rather lengthy period of time to perform. Solely because the scope of it's study is vast and numerous to be definite and exact in content composition and by volume. Clinically it involves a process called an immunoassay which is a biochemical test at the base of all tests performed. In essence it's a test and re-test type of procedure that greatly reduces proximal errors in findings.

Yet in regards to time required depending on staffing where the study / report is being conducted. A toxicology finding can be rendered back in 8 days to 2 weeks turnaround but there are no short cuts to the process to do it accurately.

However, with state labs being swamped and a lot of times not staffed as well as per say a private lab. With the case load of toxicology studies always being requested on the living and the deceased.

To receive the findings can take close to a month or longer to be gotten to and returned. It's not that one is better than the other it just comes down to things like costs, priority if it's a coroners autopsy report testing tissue samples from various organs and even the available staffing of who was selected to perform the tests.

Case and point autopsy variety or not the blood samples taken from an individual being studied. Is ran through a series of lab tests using the blood as the conclusive serum that will reveal whats in the bloodstream.

Where medically by Williams being diseased and having a number of antibiotics in his system only minutely makes the process a fraction lengthier as to breakdown all substances in exact presence and volume.

It's done with numerous gases and a transfer process that detects, identifies and pinpoints all substances with accuracy. Then approximates with an exceptionally high degree of accuracy the volume of all substances. Which allows medical techs and physicians to conclusively deduce presence and impact in conjunction with a behavioral effect be it fatal or not.

In this case the state and or county has their own lab and it's contributing to the length of time it'll take for the study to come back finalized with that accuracy.

That said,.. it's my strong belief there was more in Williams system than NyQuil and the toxicology report will pinpoint everything he had in his system at the time. I derive that conclusion based upon his non cooperative behavior afterward.

I think beyond reckless driving he knows that it's going to be discovered he was likely under the influence of something illegal. Which in combination would explain why he's been so uncooperative waiting for his fate to be determined. While hoping his lawyer can cut some sort of deal in the meantime.

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10lowellk(5 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for the explanation Nunya. I, too, was wondering why it was taking so long.

As to Williams' lawyer cutting any kind of deal, with the severity of this case there had better be no deal-making.

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11Daughter1(14 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Thank you Nunya. I have another question if you don't mind.

Where his statement in this article taken from police reports or was he interviewed by news reporters?

i plan on being there for every second of his trial, no matter how long it takes.

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12lowellk(5 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

I plan on being there as well Daughter1.

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13Daughter1(14 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

lowellk, how is your son doing?

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