Elijah Auld, Kinzy Jones Killed, Kailey Wildt Injured in Semi-Truck Accident in Upshur County, TX
UPDATE (November 27, 2023): More recent statements from authorities show officers recommended charges for criminal negligent homicide against the semi-truck driver, who they allege was inattentive and failed to control speed. According to allegations from officials, the truck driver was reaching for a water bottle and failed to avoid hitting the Chevy Impala. That collision led to the deaths of Elijah Auld and Kinzy Jones, and it sent Kailey Wildt to a hospital with apparently incapacitating injuries.
While charges don't appear to be official based on these statements, it's encouraging to see authorities were being more thorough behind the scenes. From initial public reports, it wasn't clear if charges were being considered at all. But as I originally discussed below, even confirmed charges wouldn't not necessarily be the end of the story. Are authorities still working to make sure they have the full story here?
Upshur County, TX — November 6, 2023, Elijah Auld and Kinzy Jones were killed and Kailey Wildt was hurt in a semi-truck accident at 11:00 a.m. on Highway 155.
Initial details about the accident were released by Texas DPS officials, who say the crash happened just outside of Gilmer at Highway 155 and Bluebell Road.
Details right now say that 20-year-old Elijah Auld and 21-year-old Kinzy Jones were in Chevy Impala going northbound on the highway. The Impala reportedly slowed and yielded to oncoming traffic in order to turn left, but a tractor-trailer crashed into the back of the Chevy. This sent Auld and Jones's vehicle into the path of the southbound Honda Civic, driven by 37-year-old Kailey Wildt where the vehicles then collided.
Due to the collision, both Auld and Jones sustained fatal injuries. Wildt was apparently taken to a hospital in Tyler. There were no other confirmed injuries.
Unless this is some one-in-a-million unavoidable crash, it stands out to me that authorities haven't even mentioned the possibility of charges here. Two people were killed and a third was sent to a hospital due to what is almost always the result of negligent driving. But that lack of reported charges isn't always a sign that whoever is responsible for a crash is going to get off scot-free. It just depends on whether this reticence from authorities is a sign they're still hard at work putting their evidence together or rather a sign they aren't dedicating the time and resources necessary for a crash this serious and complex.
For example, I recall one crash I handled a while back where a truck driver drove for over 20 hours straight, leading to a serious crash. Authorities essentially stopped their investigations there. They figured they had a clear bad guy, and they could simply file their charges and move on. But that confidence (or perhaps carelessness) completely overlooked another accomplice that helped cause that crash: the truck driver's employer.
Essentially, the company involved in that crash was offering bonuses to drivers who violated hours of service laws and otherwise cut any possible corners to get as much work done as possible. It was just a matter of time before people got hurt, but the people running the business didn't give a damn about the safety of anyone out on the road or even their own employees. Without bringing that sort of thing to light, all the blame would just fall on one person, and other wrongdoers would simply ride off into the sunset to continue putting lives at risk.
I'm not necessarily saying that happened here, but it's an example of why it's important that crash investigators look at the whole picture. There's a huge difference between just looking for someone to blame and finding out exactly what went wrong, who needs to be held accountable, and how those mistakes can be remedied so others aren't harmed in the future.
So if authorities are looking at this from all angles rather than treating this like any ordinary car crash, the current lack of information could be a positive sign they're carefully considering all the facts and what their next steps should be to ensure any and all parties who contributed to this awful event face the appropriate consequences. But as just a member of the public reading these inconclusive statements in the news, it's tough to shake that feeling in the pit of my stomach that authorities might be overlooking something important.