Lawsuits Flying Against Trucking Co. in Wake of Fiery Crash That Left 7 Dead

Alachua County, Florida – Lawsuits continue to fly in the aftermath of a fiery, multiple vehicle crossover crash along I-75 in Florida earlier this year.

The horrific crash left 7 dead including 5 children and two truckers.

In the wake of the January 3rd crash, a total of 9 lawsuits have been filed against Homewood, Illinois-based Eagle Express Lines (EEL).

The truck driver investigators say began the crash, 59-year-old Steve Holland, was employed by EEL at the time.

 

In the days immediately following the crash, one lawsuit was quickly filed in Palm Beach County by a family member of one of the victims.

However, Transportation Nation Network (TNN) has learned 8 more lawsuits were recently filed in Cook County, Illinois by victims’ family members as well as survivors.

Each suit names EEL as defendant and 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 Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continue their investigations.

The NTSB released its preliminary report in April and determined Holland was traveling northbound in a 2016 Freightliner when he veered into a sedan at approximately 3:41 p.m.

 

The initial collision caused Holland and the driver of the sedan, Robyn Rattray, 41, of Gainesville, to lose control and crossover the center divider and into oncoming southbound traffic.

Both vehicles then struck a southbound 2006 Chevrolet 12-passenger church van from Louisiana.

The van rolled and struck a 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck.

Holland’s semi continued into the oncoming traffic and then struck a 2018 Freightliner tractor-trailer, driven by 49-year-old Douglas Bolkema of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which was in the far-right lane.

Holland was ejected.

The big rigs erupted into a fiery inferno.

Both truck drivers perished.

Additionally, 5 children on-board the passenger van, 14-year-olds Joel Cloud and Jeremiah Warren, 13-year-old Cara Descant, 10-year-old Briena Descant, and 9-year-old Cierra Bordelan, also died in the terrible crash.

 

The NTSB said the accident is still under investigation in order to determine “probable cause” and “with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes.”

Holland’s Driving History Seized Upon

In the days following, TNN learned more about Holland’s driving history.

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.


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Those filing the suits have seized on this and are claiming “negligence, carelessness and distracted driving” on Holland’s part led to the fatal outcome.

Further, lawsuits are alleging EEL was also negligent and careless for employing Holland.

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.

The company hauls general freight/U.S. Mail while operating 1,502 power units and employing 1,963 drivers, according to FMCSA.

TNN will continue to follow these cases and the ongoing investigations.

(Image courtesy of Alachua County Fire Rescue)

 


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