Jeffrey Hilbert Killed, Two Injured in Four-Vehicle Accident on Grand Ave in Surprise, AZ
UPDATE (April 6, 2022): The victim killed in this accident has been identified as 69-year-old Jeffrey Hilbert.
Reports say that Penske driver Dewey Sigler complained of a possible heart attack after the accident and was transported to a hospital. While under medical care, hospital staff found a bag of pills thought to contain fentanyl with his belongings. His toxicology results also stated there was a presumptive positive for methamphetamine in his system. He was arrested on multiple charges after his release from the hospital.
Surprise, AZ -- April 4, 2022, one person was killed and two were injured in a four-vehicle collision on Grand Avenue in Surprise.
Authorities say the incident happened just after 11:00 a.m. on southbound Grand Avenue (U.S. Highway 60) at 163rd Avenue. Reports suggest a Penske box truck crashed into a Toyota sedan, pushing it off the road. The box truck then hit a Nissan Altima and a nearby commercial semi-truck.
The Nissan driver suffered fatal injuries in the crash. The Toyota's occupants received unspecified injuries. No other injuries were reported.
Investigators are looking into the possibility that the Penske driver, 57-year-old Dewey Sigler, was impaired. They arrested him after his release from the hospital.
No further information is currently available.
Commentary on Four-Vehicle Accident on Grand Ave in Surprise
UPDATE (April 6, 2022): Later reports suggest the rental truck driver may have been intoxicated by drugs at the time of the crash. Having made an arrest and identified a "bad guy," police may be satisfied that the issue is more or less resolved.
Here's the thing, though: Criminal charges, while important for resolution, don't do a lot to help victims and families recover after these incidents. There may be a measure of moral satisfaction to knowing a bad actor will face consequences, but there may still be other issues to address here that aren't as obvious.
For instance, one detail that leapt out in the newer reports is that the suspect apparently told hospital staff he takes something like 10 fentanyl pills a day. I'm not a pharmacist, but I'm under the impression just a few grains of that stuff is enough to prove fatal in the wrong hands. The idea that someone might funnel multiple pills' worth of that into their system daily is an alarming prospect. Even scarier is the idea that a man doped up on fentanyl (and possibly high on meth) waltzed into a truck rental place and scooped up keys without setting off any warning bells for the staff.
I don't want to pick a fight with Penske here; I wasn't there when that truck was rented. The suspect may have been sober as a Quaker judge when he signed the paperwork. However, if it's possible that a business let him get behind the wheel of one of their trucks when he was high as a kite, that business may have some answering to do for letting him cause damage with their equipment. It's food for thought and worth looking into further; will police follow up on that, or should an independent investigator go digging on behalf of the victims and their families?
ORIGINAL: It's not too unusual for there to be few preliminary details about a complex, multi-vehicle crash involving commercial vehicles. The scenes of those accidents can be pretty chaotic and it takes a lot of time, tools, and experience to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Frankly, that may mean it'd be better to have independent investigators look into the details rather than wait around to see what police turn up.
Here's why prompt independent action can be so crucial: A while back, a family came to me about a serious commercial truck wreck. They waited for months to hear more about how their loved one was hurt in the wreck, but didn't hear a peep from the authorities. They asked us to look into things and ultimately found the investigating officer was still waiting for the trucking company to return with data from an Engine Control Module they allowed the company to take from the scene. That one mistake nearly ruined the family's opportunity to find out what really happened in the crash.
The ECM is a valuable piece of evidence that can show things like speeds and even braking leading up to a crash. Letting a trucking company take that from the scene before it can be independently evaluated is like asking a burglary suspect to dust for fingerprints. The suspect would most likely wipe every surface clean of prints, and that's more or less what a company is likely to do when they're handed a source of potentially-damning information about their driver's behavior. We ultimately salvaged that case, but I shudder to think how things would have gone had that family not sought professional help.
I'm not saying anyone's going to swoop in and tamper with evidence in the Arizona crash, or even that the semi-truck driver necessarily did anything wrong. Most of the heat appears to be on the Penske driver and I have no specific reason to doubt police conclusions. I'm only emphasizing just how important it is for people to take the necessary steps to ensure they have the full story (and box trucks have Control Modules too). Simply relying on the authorities isn't always a good way to do that, so having independent professionals look into things can be a prudent step toward getting folks the answers and the help they deserve.