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Published: Thursday, 1/26/2006

Ada, Ohio, truck driver convicted in fatal crash


ALLEGAN, Mich. - A northwest Ohio truck driver who hid his progressive multiple sclerosis to keep his job has pleaded no contest to vehicular homicide after a fiery crash that killed a woman who had been pulled over for a speeding violation.

David Gale, 43, of Ada, Ohio, entered the plea Tuesday during a hearing in Allegan County Circuit Court. Judge George Corsiglia scheduled him to be sentenced on Feb. 24.

In Michigan, a no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but it is treated the same at sentencing. Gale faces up to 15 years in prison.

Early on June 23, 2004, Allegan County sheriff's Deputy Jon Bender pulled over Emily Van Dyke's vehicle on I-196 near Holland, about a mile south of where U.S. 31 merges with the freeway. Moments later, Gale's truck plowed into the back of the police cruiser, then rolled over Ms. Van Dyke's car and dragged it into a ditch, where both caught fire.

The collision killed Ms. Van Dyke, 22, of Saugatuck. She had just graduated from Alma College and was preparing to start teaching at a North Carolina elementary school.

Gale and the deputy suffered minor injuries.

Gale initially told investigators that he had fallen asleep behind the wheel of his rig. Police and prosecutors later discovered that he has multiple sclerosis.

Medical records show Gale was diagnosed with the disease on March 8, 2004, but did not disclose the diagnosis two months later when he sought to renew his commercial driver's license.

He also persuaded a doctor in his hometown to sign a certificate stating that Gale was qualified for a commercial license, prosecutors said.

Gale, who used a wheelchair during his plea hearing, said he had stopped taking his multiple sclerosis medication before the crash.

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