UPDATE, December 10 2018: On December 8, Joseph Bland surrendered himself to deputies at the Jasper County Detention Center in response to a warrant for his arrest issued in connection to the events of October 10.
Bland posted a $1,500 cash bond at the Detention Center and was released.
UPDATE: The victim in the fatal hit-and-run crash described below has been identified by authorities as 40-year-old Rensselaer woman Melisa Deno.
Police conducted a statewide search for the 18-wheeler; it was located a short time later in St. Louis, MO. The hit-and-run driver was identified as 43-year-old Joseph Bland. Charges against Bland are now pending in the county where the crash happened.
Rensselaer, IN — On October 10, 2018, one person was killed in a hit-and-run accident between a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle just south of Rensselaer.
According to authorities from the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred around 1 p.m. The 18 wheeler was traveling west on State Road 16 when its driver ignored a flashing red stop light at the intersection with U.S. Highway 231. Entering the intersection out of turn, the semi crashed into a vehicle on the north-south highway.
The truck driver fled the scene after the accident, which killed the unnamed driver of the other vehicle. The suspect is currently at large and authorities continue to investigate.
Map of the Area
The good news in crashes like is that hit-and-run truck drivers are almost always found eventually. Aside from being too large to ditch or hide easily, modern technology makes it easier to track down where a commercial vehicle was and at what time of day. Authorities will track down that hit-and-run driver, and then we’ll see how hard he or she tries to weasel out of the responsibility for the crash.
Based on the pictures of the accident scene, there’s no plausible way the driver could argue they didn’t see the vehicle they hit, which makes me wonder why they chose to flee. It could be that they simply panicked, but far more likely is that they have something to hide. After all, while there are rare times that drivers just blithely blow through red lights, it’s more common for them to be “off their game” in the forms of distraction, intoxication, or fatigue (or some combination of the three).
Drivers who run think that if they can just “sleep it off” they can make a more compelling argument that they just panicked after making a mistake. In the numerous fatal hit-and-run truck accident cases that our firm has litigated, we’ve been able to use receipts, cell phone data, or even drug tests after the crash to prove that there was something wrong with the driver at the time of the wreck. It is seldom a momentary regrettable choice that leads to crashes like these, but rather a series of negligent behaviors that build up until a terrible, explosive moment.
UPDATE: I’m not going to pat myself on the back too hard for calling that they would find the hit-and-run driver. I’d much rather this never happened in the first place. I’m at least glad that the driver will face consequences for his actions, and that the criminal justice system will have a chance to take appropriate measures.
Time will tell if the rest of my prediction–the bit about how Bland, his employer, and their insurer will try to squirm out of liability for hitting another driver–will come true, but I know which way I’d bet if I were a gambler.
–Grossman Law Offices