Driver of truck that killed 7 children in Florida faces charges

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The driver whose tractor-trailer slammed into a car of seven children from the same family, killing them and injuring 10 others when both vehicles then hit a school bus, will face felony counts of vehicular homicide and manslaughter for each of the victims’ deaths, Florida State Attorney Bill Cervone said Wednesday, Sept. 27.

The state’s case against trucker Alvin Wilkerson, 32, in the Jan. 25 crash on Florida 121 will be based on authorities’ belief that the man was sleep-deprived at the time of the wreck, according to the Florida Times-Union. Authorities previously said Wilkerson, of Jacksonville, Fla., was awake for 34 hours before the crash, except for a short nap, basing the conclusions at least in part on the Crete Carrier driver’s bills of lading and cell phone records.

Cervone refused to say if authorities believed the man was asleep when the crash happened or if he broke regulations about working more hours on the road than allowed by law, the Times-Union reported. The Union County crash happened at 3:25 p.m. while 15-year-old Cynthia “Nikki” Mann, who had a learner’s permit, was at the wheel of her family’s Pontiac Bonneville. Her passengers were siblings Elizabeth Mann, 15, Johnny Mann, 13, Heaven Mann, 3, her foster brother Anthony Lamb, 20 months, and her cousins Ashley Keen, 14, and Miranda Finn, 10.

The Pontiac was stopped behind the bus, which had just let two children off, when the truck ran over the car and both vehicles hit the bus; nine children and the bus driver were hurt. Wilkerson also will face separate misdemeanor counts of culpable negligence in connection with those 10 victims, according to the Times-Union. He could face up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each of the 14 felony charges against him, on top of other penalties if convicted of the misdemeanor charges, the Times-Union reported.

Crete released a statement shortly after the counts against Wilkerson were announced. “As a family-owned company, we again wish to convey how deeply saddened we are by the suffering caused by this tragic event,” said Jack Peetz, chief operating officer for the Lincoln, Neb.-based company. “All of the families and others affected by this accident continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. With respect to the charges brought against Alvin Wilkerson related to the accident, we suggest that questions be directed to Mr. Wilkerson’s legal counsel.”