CEO Says “Medical Emergency” Led To I-75 Crash That Killed 7 People
Alachua County, FL – The CEO of the trucking company now facing nine lawsuits in connection to the deadly crash along I-75 in Florida earlier this year is speaking out about what led to the fatal accident.
In a newly released statement to CBS News, CEO of Homewood, Illinois-based Eagle Express Lines (EEL), Wayne Hoovestol, says 59-year-old truck driver Steve Holland, who started the horrific crash, experienced a “medical emergency.”
“It appears that he suffered a sudden medical emergency that rendered him unconscious, thus leading to the accident,” he explained to the national news outlet.
Since the crash on January 3, 2019 which resulted in the deaths of seven people including Holland, 5 children and 49-year-old truck driver Douglas Bolkema of Albuquerque, New Mexico; many questions have been raised regarding Holland’s driving history.
In the days following the crash, TNN reported on its findings into Holland’s driving record.
According to court records, Holland received numerous tickets between 2000 and 2014 in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Virginia.
Holland received citations for speeding, driving an unsafe vehicle, driving an overloaded vehicle and not carrying proof of insurance.
However, according to Hoovestol, Holland was an exemplary truck driver.
“Mr. Holland was an excellent driver and had driven this same route hundreds of times,” he asserted.
Moreover, Hoovestol claims EEL’s number one priority is safety and the company has been fully cooperating with the continued investigations into the crash.
“We’ve cooperated fully with both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Florida State Highway Patrol (FHP) in their investigations,” he told CBS News.
NTSB released its preliminary findings in April.
Investigators determined Holland was traveling north on I-75 in a 2016 Freightliner at 3:41 p.m. when he unexpectedly veered into an Acura sedan also traveling northbound.
Both vehicles then lost control and went through the center divider before striking a southbound 2006 Chevrolet 12-passenger church van from Louisiana.
The van rolled and struck a 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck.
MORE ON I-75 FLORIDA CRASH
Holland’s semi continued into the oncoming traffic before colliding with a 2018 Freightliner tractor-trailer, driven by Bolkema, which was in the far-right lane.
Holland was ejected.
The big rigs erupted into a fiery inferno.
Dash cam video captured from inside Bolkema’s big rig was released on Wednesday.
You can watch it HERE. (Viewer discretion is advised)
NTSB’s report states that Holland held a legal commercial driver’s license (CDL) that was in good standing.
Additionally, his medical certificate was current until February 2020.
Further, the NTSB investigation found Holland was operating within the regulated hours of service at the time of the crash.
Nonetheless, a total of nine lawsuits have already been filed against EEL alleging “negligence, carelessness and distracted driving” on Holland’s part led to the fatal outcome.
Further, the lawsuits are alleging EEL was also negligent and careless for employing Holland.
Hoovestol says such an assertion couldn’t be further from the truth.
“We have rigorous protocol to ensure the safety of our drivers and those who share the roads,” he said to CBS News.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) SaferWeb data, EEL has a “satisfactory” safety rating.
The company reported a total of 178 crashes in the last 24 months including 5 fatal accidents.
The data does not indicate at-fault determinations.
Additionally, EEL’s vehicle maintenance and driver inspections out-of-service percentages are both well below industry averages.
Each suit naming EEL as the defendant is seeking in excess of $50,000.
Additionally, each complaint requests a jury hear the case and make a determination as to the monetary damages above $50,000.
Each lawsuit remains in the discovery phase as both the FHP and the NTSB continue their investigations.
However, despite the onslaught of lawsuits and media scrutiny, Hoovestol says Holland is deeply missed.
“We lost a life in this tragedy as well. He is deeply missed by his friends and family.”
Hoovestol also expressed his sadness for the victims and their families.
“The families remain in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.
TNN will continue to bring you the latest on this ongoing investigation.
(Photos courtesy of the NTSB)