• November 10, 2021

Shawn Kelley, Jennifer Arocha Killed in Semi-Truck Accident in Iosco County, MI

UPDATE (June 8, 2022): In recent reports, officials say the truck driver involved in the crash, identified as 83-yea-rold Walter Willett, faces charges for a moving violation in a construction zone causing death. The exact cause of the crash remains unclear.

Iosco County, MI -- November 5, 2021, Shawn Kelley and Jennifer Arocha were killed following an accident where a semi-truck hit construction traffic.

Investigators said that the crash took place at around 8:30 a.m. in the Oscoda Township area along US Highway 23.

Officials said traffic built as construction closed all but one lane. In the stopped traffic, a semi-truck reportedly failed to control speed and slammed into the vehicles.

One driver hit by the truck, 39-year-old Jennifer Arocha, sustained fatal injuries. A construction flagger, 47-year-old Shawn Kelley, was also hit and killed. Right now, it's unclear if anyone else was hurt.

Police have yet to determine an exact cause for the crash. Investigations are ongoing.

Commentary on Shawn Kelley, Jennifer Arocha Semi-Truck Accident in Iosco County

UPDATE (June 8, 2022): Recent reports suggest police don't think alcohol, drugs, or cell phone usage contributed to the crash. Maybe that will change as investigations continue, but even if that's true, what I discussed below is still important to consider. Maybe this was all just a regular mistake, like reaching for something in the floorboard, falling asleep at the wheel, or recklessly speeding. But there can also be extenuating circumstances to consider, such as a case I handled where a truck driver was all but forced to driver for dozens of hours at a time to meet ludicrous deadlines his employer set without any regard for the risk that posed to the public. One way or another, getting the full story is always crucial, but getting clear answers for grieving families is only going to make investigations that much more vital.

ORIGINAL: How a professional truck driver fails to see a construction zone, a flagger in the road, and a line of vehicles stopped is just mind boggling. I've handled hundreds of commercial vehicle wrecks, many with similar details to these. Needless to say, getting help and clear answers for the families involved here needs to be the priority. It's simply important to make sure they're getting the full story and not someone half-baked investigation into the seemingly obvious factors.

Shawn Kelley, Jennifer Arocha Semi-Truck Accident Iosco County, MI

Here's why I say that. Serious commercial truck wrecks are not always as simple as just blaming the truck driver. For one, there is always that slim chance that something beyond the truck driver's control happened. Brake failure due to a manufacturing issue, for example, is not common, but it can happen. It's simply important to be thorough. The more likely explanation, of course, is that the truck driver wasn't paying attention to the road. Even if something like that happened here, there could still be more to bring to light than the police alone are generally equipped to handle.

For example, I handled a situation not long ago involving a truck driver texting and driving. That seemed pretty open-and-shut, but it was our independent investigations that revealed the driver as responding to his supervisor. Why did that matter? Well, it normally wouldn't, but we found out that company required drivers to respond to all texts and calls right away or else risk getting in trouble, possibly even losing their job. With all of those drivers forced to choose between following the rules of the road and putting food on their family's table, someone was bound to get hurt.

The reason I bring this up isn't to just meander while there are families out there suffering. My point in bringing this up is to illustrate to folks the possible challenges those families may have to contend with. Commercial truck wrecks are about as complex as things get. Waiting around for charges or a police report is rarely enough to get them the help and the closure they deserve. It takes extensive investigations from experienced professionals to ensure that all parties responsible for the events are held fully accountable. Are those steps being taken here?

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