Nashville Ready Mix Inc., its president and two related companies face a 24-count indictment charging vehicular homicide and reckless homicide after one of the firm's trucks brakes failed, causing a fatal crash.
The charges against Nashville Ready Mix Inc., Nashville Ready Mix of Clarksville LLC, Nashville Ready Mix of West Nashville LLC, and Mark Steven Meadows, president of all three, include operating a commercial vehicle without properly functioning brakes and operating a commercial vehicle that weighed 19,900 lbs over its 54,000-lb limit.
The charges, brought April 6 by the Cheatham County, Tenn., grand jury, stem from the March 14, 2013, crash that killed Sergio Garcia Lopez, 33, of Clarksville, Tenn. The concrete truck, unable to stop, drove around another stopped concrete truck, swerved in an attempt to miss another pickup truck opposite. The driver hit the pickup, overturned and hit Lopez and slid down the highway pushing the pickup and trailer and pushing them into another pickup that had stopped, according to a Tennessee Highway Patrol report.
The company faces fines of up to $3 million, says Bob Wilson, assistant district attorney.
This case is one of few in the country in which a corporation has been indicted for vehicular homicide, according to both Wilson and to Hal Hardin, attorney for the company.
Separately, Robert W. Ashabranner, 46, of Clarksville, the concrete truck driver, and Carlton H. Moseley, 38, of Clarksville, a Ready Mix dispatcher, were indicted in February, each on one count of vehicular homicide and one of reckless homicide. Both are free on $5,000 bond.
According to THP reports, Ashabranner was traveling down a steep hill behind another Nashville Ready Mix truck in pre-dawn dark. Both had left the Clarksville plant, delivering concrete to Cheatham Lock and Dam, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility on the Cumberland River.
Ashabranner told the THP “that when he applied the service brakes on the vehicle, it would not slow or stop,” a report says.
“The inspection of the air brake system on the vehicle did reveal issues that were present prior to the crash occurring,” it says.
“An issue with the brake system was found during the inspection and was pre-existing,” it says. “Upon application of the service brakes of the vehicle, a massive air leak could be heard. The rapid loss of air was also noticed by use of the air gauge in the truck.”
Ashabranner had complained, on daily vehicle inspection reports filed with the company, that the truck had problems with air leaks, starting on Sept. 19, 2012, and continueing almost daily until the day of the crash, court documents show.
The concrete truck also had a pusher axle, which the driver can lower when hauling a heavy load to increase weight allowed on the highway. In this case, it could increase gross weight capability from 54,000 lbs to 74,000 lbs. However, the THP inspector weighed the truck at 73,900 lbs, which did not include the weight of a 200-gal water tank, fuel and the driver.