Driver facing felony charges in Indiana crash that killed 4 children declared ‘imminent hazard’ by FMCSA

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The preliminary investigation of the July 9 accident indicates that a 2004 Kenworth driven by Corey Withrow of Camden, Ohio, was eastbound in the right lane on Interstate 70 in Indiana when the truck came upon traffic that was stopped. (Courtesy: Indiana State Police)

CAMBRIDGE CITY, Ind., and EATON, Ohio — A truck driver who was charged with multiple felonies related to a July 9 accident in Wayne County, Indiana, that resulted in the death of four children has been arrested on separate charges in Preble County, Ohio, according to county records. In addition, the driver has been declared an “imminent hazard to public safety” by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

A July 14 report by Ohio news outlet WHIO noted that Corey Withrow, 31, of Camden, Ohio, was arrested July 14 and charged with violating terms of probation related to a 2019 drug conviction; a hearing was set for July 21.

At the time of this writing, July 24, no record of the July 21 hearing had been filed on the county court’s website and Withrow was listed as an inmate in Ohio’s Preble County Jail. County records reflected 13 previous arrests for Withrow between 2013 and 2019, with charges ranging from possession of drugs to burglary.

The July 9 accident, which occurred about 5 p.m. on Interstate 70 near Cambridge, Indiana, involved two tractor-trailers and a Chevrolet passenger vehicle. When Wayne County Deputies arrived at the scene, they found a Chevrolet car and a 2004 Kenworth tractor with a loaded box trailer off the left side of eastbound I-70, both fully engulfed in flames.

A preliminary investigation by law enforcement indicated that the Kenworth, driven by Withrow, was eastbound in the right lane when the driver came upon traffic that had slowed to merge into the left lane for a construction zone. The Kenworth failed to slow as it approached the slowed traffic and rear-ended a Chevrolet car in the right lane, pushing the car forward into the left rear corner of a tractor-trailer that was also in the right lane, directly in front of the passenger car. The Kenworth continued, pushing the passenger car into the left lane and eventually onto the berm of the left lane, where the two vehicles burst into flames. At the time of the July 9 incident, Withrow was employed by Barnets Inc. of Camden Ohio.

A passerby was able to pull the driver of the passenger car from the vehicle but was unable to rescue the four passengers from the car. Indiana State Police Investigators have identified the fatalities as Anesa Noel Acosta, 15; Quintin Michael McGowan, 13; Brekkin Riley Bruce, 8; and Trentin Beau Bruce, 6. The driver of the car, 34-year-old Aaron Bruce of Kansas City, Missouri, was transported to a hospital in Indianapolis with burns and internal injuries.

Withrow escaped the burning semi with non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the tractor-trailer that was hit from behind has been identified as Thomas Flaherty, 57, of Springfield, Ohio. He was not injured.

Wayne County jail records show that Withrow was arrested at 1:20 a.m. July 10 and charged with Level 4 and Level 5 operating while intoxicated, Level 5 reckless homicide, four counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated resulting in death, and four counts of causing catastrophic injury while operating intoxicated. Withrow was released on bond at 11:40 p.m. July 10.

RTV6 Indianapolis reported July 14 that witnesses said Withrow’s truck had been driving erratically prior to the crash, at one point pushing another tractor-trailer onto the shoulder. Indiana State Police investigators determined the truck was moving at 72 mph at the time of the crash; the speed limit in the construction zone was 55 mph but traffic was moving slower as it merged into a single open lane.

Police said that after the crash, Withrow was “staggering and off balance, his speech slurred.” The results of a court-ordered blood draw showed evidence of marijuana, amphetamines and methamphetamine use.

A notice published July 23 by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) declared Withrow to be an imminent hazard to public safety and has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. Withrow was served the federal order on July 17.

The out-of-service order states that Withrow’s “blatant and egregious violations of the [federal safety regulations] and ongoing and repeated disregard for the safety of the motoring public … substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death to you and motoring public.”

Withrow also may be subject to a civil penalty enforcement proceeding brought by FMCSA for his violation of the Agency’s safety regulations.

Co-written by The Trucker’s Wendy Miller.

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