18-Wheeler Driver Charged in Death of 12-Year-Old

The driver of a tractor-trailer was charged in the death of a Shelby County sixth-grader in an accident that occurred last June.

Charges Upgraded to Felony Manslaughter

According to the Gaston Gazette, Gary Alphonso Thomas, 44, has been charged with felony involuntary manslaughter, upgraded from misdemeanor death by vehicle, for the death of 12-year-old Zachary Dillion Saunders on June 17.

Saunders was killed when the box truck he was a passenger in collided with Thomas’ 18-wheeler.  Thomas had pulled over to make a phone call on Interstate 85 South and upon attempting to re-enter traffic, Thomas’ 18-wheeler was rear-ended by the box truck.

Highway Patrol concluded that Thomas caused the accident by making an unsafe movement and impeding traffic.

Tractor-Trailer Accident Statistics

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recorded 438,000 trucking accidents in the U.S. in 2014.
  • These accidents result in 3,903 deaths and 111,000 injuries.
  • Of those killed in trucking accidents:
    • 17 percent were occupants of large trucks
    • 73 percent were occupants of other vehicles
    • 10 percent were listed as nonoccupants, including bicyclists and pedestrians
  • Texas led the nation in trucking accident fatalities with 553 trucking-related deaths reported. California followed Texas with 300 recorded deaths.
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