LCSO Sgt. Chris Jenkins Killed in 18-Wheeler Accident on I-75 in Loudon County, TN
UPDATE (August 11, 2022): Recent reports indicate that truck driver Christopher Savannah, who reportedly hit and killed Sergeant Chris Jenkins, was indicted by a grand jury on charges of vehicular homicide by intoxication, vehicular homicide by recklessness, reckless endangerment, DUI, simple possession, possession of a handgun under the influence, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Savannah's employer, Texas-based Koboat Trucking LLC, was shut down in March by the FMCSA after being deemed "an imminent hazard to public safety."
UPDATE (February 9, 2022): New reports say authorities have also located and charged 35-year-old Sonny Beason as the driver of the utility truck that lost its ladder in the roadway, leading to the events that claimed the life of Sergeant Jenkins.
Beason was charged with three counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment and driving on a suspended license.
UPDATE (February 8, 2022): Reports now indicate that the truck driver who struck Sergeant Chris Jenkins, identified as 43-year-old Christopher Savannah, was allegedly under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident.
Savannah was charged with vehicular homicide by intoxication, vehicular homicide by recklessness, reckless endangerment x2, DUI, simple possession, possession of a handgun under the influence, possession of drug paraphernalia and other traffic charges.
Loudon County, TN -- February 3, 2022, Loudon County Sheriff's Office sergeant Chris Jenkins was struck and killed by a semi-truck on Interstate 75 in Loudon County.
Authorities say the incident happened Thursday morning along I-75 North near the Tennessee River bridge. Preliminary investigation suggests Jenkins stopped along the roadway and set up a rolling roadblock before exiting the vehicle to remove a ladder from the travel lanes. According to reports the ladder fell off the back of a utility vehicle where it was improperly secured and posed a hazard to drivers.
As Jenkins approached the ladder a commercial tractor-trailer reportedly crashed into him and his cruiser, as well as two other vehicles nearby. Witnesses told police the truck did not slow as it approached. The truck driver agreed to a blood draw and was interviewed at the scene.
The investigation is ongoing. No further information is currently available.
Commentary on Sgt Chris Jenkins Accident on I-75 in Loudon County
UPDATE (February 8, 2022): It seems the truck driver in this accident was under the influence of marijuana, at least according to more recent reports.
My previous thoughts about the crash may not have hit the mark exactly, but much of the point I was making still rings true. I wrote before about a sleepy employee whose company more or less forced him to make poor choices in order to remain employed, and that doesn't seem like the case here. Instead we have a professional driver who felt comfortable operating 40 tons of explosion-powered steel and fiberglass in a less-than-ideal mental state. I don't begrudge people their good time as long as it doesn't put anyone else at risk, but being any level of stoned while on the job in a big rig doesn't fit that bill. It's clear the truck driver's in a heap of trouble for his choices, but before anyone throws the entire book at him it may still be prudent to save a few pages for his employer.
Why mention them? Because when their employee acts negligently, part of a comprehensive investigation involves finding out whether the company knew he might do something like that. His professional driving history and any medical checkup information they have may bear some scrutiny to learn whether the company could have seen his behavior coming. If so, there's a potential matter of negligent hiring and/or negligent supervision that may need addressing as well. If they're fostering a lax safety environment or failing to address dangerous driver behaviors within their ranks, that must be nipped in the bud.
ORIGINAL: When an 18-wheeler crashes into slowed or stopped vehicles it's usually for the same few reasons--most commonly speeding, fatigue, or distraction. I'm not saying any of those was necessarily involved in Tennessee, as they aren't the only possible explanations for what happened. Investigators must also consider unusual issues like mechanical problems in the at-fault truck or its driver having a medical emergency. However, in most of these situations it's ultimately found the crash was entirely avoidable.
Even if that's true here, it doesn't mean the situation is open and shut and the blame automatically rests solely with the driver. Investigation may show he was at fault, but there may still be extenuating circumstances to consider.
For example, I recently worked on a case where a truck driver caused a similar accident after driving for 20 straight hours without so much as a rest break. That was clearly a huge mistake, and many would have considered it more than enough to assign fault and close the case. I wondered what would make that driver act so dangerously, though, so we kept digging.
We finally learned the trucker's company routinely forced drivers to meet ridiculous deadlines that often required them to cut corners and take risks. If they failed to meet the company's requirements, they faced reduced hours and cut routes or even outright termination. If a hard-working trucker has to choose between following the rules and putting food on the table, it's almost inevitable someone will be hurt.
I'm not saying the same thing happened near Carthage. My point is more that handling commercial truck wrecks isn't just about finding one person to pin all the blame on. These crashes can happen when drivers make unfortunate mistakes, because of unusual elements beyond their control, or as the result of a dangerous work environment that encourages recklessness and could cause more accidents if nothing is done.
Simply laying all the blame at one person's feet without looking more closely runs the risk of missing important information. Not only do victims and families need every available detail to get the help they deserve, but also those details could be the difference between more people getting hurt and a negligent trucking company cleaning up its act. I don't want to speculate about the specifics of the crash on I-75, but long experience tells me it'd be best for seasoned professionals to look into the matter and find the whole story.