Report blames trucker in fatal crash

Monday, October 28, 2002

JOPLIN, Mo. -- A 12-vehicle pileup on Interstate 44 that killed five people may have been avoided if the driver of a tractor-trailer had not stopped his truck in the fast lane in heavy fog, according to a report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The accident on May 18 near Joplin involved five tractor-trailers, a truck without a trailer, and six smaller vehicles. The gas tanks on some of the vehicles ruptured, causing fires that killed three of the four who died at the scene and contributed to the death of a victim who died five weeks after the accident. Seven other people were injured.

The patrol's final 95-page reconstruction, obtained by The Joplin Globe for a story Sunday, said the accident began when a sedan driven by Nural Hatice Ramirez, 23, struck one of the tractor trailers. The patrol concluded that the driver of that tractor trailer, called driver No. 1 in the report, had slowed his vehicle because of fog, and may have been trying to stop the tractor trailer.

After the initial crash, driver No. 1 stopped the tractor trailer in the left lane of the interstate, the patrol said. Because visibility was "severely limited" by fog, the report says, the driver should have moved his vehicle to the highway's shoulder or median.

"Part, if not all of this collision could have been avoided," the report said.

The driver of the tractor trailer is not charged in the accident, and the patrol could not reach him for its report.

Ramirez, who was eight months pregnant, was killed in the accident, along with her husband and three others.

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