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Published: Friday, 3/30/2012

Driver of truck to be arraigned for fatal crash

Chain-reaction killed 3, hurt 1 on I-475 over turnpike in August

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Three people were killed and a fourth person was injured on northbound I-475 where the highway crosses over the Ohio Turnpike. Three people were killed and a fourth person was injured on northbound I-475 where the highway crosses over the Ohio Turnpike.
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The Michigan truck driver involved in an August chain-reaction crash that killed three people and critically injured a fourth is scheduled to appear Friday in Maumee Municipal Court, where he will be arraigned on misdemeanor criminal charges.

John N. Tucker, 65, of Flint was charged with three counts each of vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter.

In a separate traffic case, Mr. Tucker is charged with three counts of fatality through the negligent operation of a commercial motor vehicle.

The charges were filed last week, about a month after a Lucas County grand jury declined to indict Mr. Tucker on felony charges related to the crash.

Killed in the Aug. 4 crash were James South, 68, of Monclova Township; Dale Barnhiser, 52, of Grand Rapids, Ohio, and Jodi Lubas, 40, of Maumee. Diana Dixon, 48, of Coraopolis, Pa., was injured.

Authorities said Mr. South's pickup became disabled in the right lane of northbound I-475 after a collision with a tractor-trailer driven by Michael Borowy, 55, of Warren, Mich., about 5:25 a.m.

Both Ms. Lubas and Ms. Dixon had stopped and gotten out of their vehicles to offer assistance when Mr. Tucker's semi-trailer slammed into Mr. South's pickup, killing Mr. South and Ms. Lubas. Ms. Dixon survived because she jumped from the freeway viaduct and fell to the Ohio Turnpike's median to avoid being hit.

Mr. Barnhiser also was involved in the collision. He was killed when he was thrown from his motorcycle and landed in a field adjacent to the crash scene.

Maumee Municipal Prosecutor John Arnsby said Mr. Tucker could be convicted on all the charges but because they are allied offenses, he likely would be sentenced on only three of them if convicted.

Vehicular homicide, a first-degree misdemeanor, is charged when a driver is accused of being negligent, or exercising a "substantial lapse from due care." Vehicular manslaughter, which is a misdemeanor of the second degree, is if the crash was the result of a traffic violation, in this case, assured cleared distance.

If convicted, Mr. Hunt faces up to six months of local incarceration for each first-degree misdemeanor as well as a driver's license suspension for as long as five years.

Mr. Arsnby explained that although the final counts are coded as traffic offenses, they still carry criminal penalties. Causing a fatality as a result of negligent operation of a commercial motor vehicle is a first-degree misdemeanor that also can lead to suspension of his trucking license, Mr. Arnsby said.

Toledo attorney Tony Calamunci said he expects to meet Mr. Tucker in court for the appearance but declined to comment on the case.

Since the crash, authorities have said it appears Mr. Tucker may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

There was no indication of any drug abuse or alcohol in Mr. Tucker's system.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134



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