Charges filed against driver in deadly Gibson Co. van crash

Charges filed against driver in deadly Gibson Co. van crash

GIBSON CO., IN (WFIE) - Charges have been filed in connection with September's deadly van crash in Gibson County.

Gibson County Prosecutor Robert Krieg says charges were filed Thursday morning against the driver of the van, 30-year-old James Allen.

Investigators say the 16 person van had 24 passengers when a rear tire blew and the vehicle overturned near the Mackey and Ft. Branch exit on I-69. The accident resulted in the deaths of two people and hurt 22 others.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Allen is charged with:

  • Two counts of operating while intoxicated causing death to another person
  • Seven counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury to another person
  • Two counts of criminal recklessness committed by aggressive driving resulting in death
  • Seven counts of criminal recklessness committed by aggressive driving resulting in serious bodily injury
  • One count of no commercial driver's license
  • One count of exceeding maximum lawful speed
  • One count of following too close
  • One count of unsafe lane change

The affidavit shows Allen gave blood and urine samples. His blood tested negative for alcohol. The urine tested positive for THC, a metabolite of marijuana. Allen told investigators he had trouble sleeping the night before the crash and smoked a bowl around 2:30 a.m., about 12 hours before he left to go pick up passengers. Allen said he may have smoked marijuana again later that morning, but he couldn't remember. During the drug influence evaluation, Allen told investigators he smokes marijuana at least once a day. The certified drug recognition expert concluded Allen was still under the influence of marijuana and not able to operate a vehicle.

The affidavit also shows the van was more than overloaded. It was falling apart. Three of the tires were nine years old, dry rotting and cracking.

The affidavit describes a massive tire failure in the rear passenger side, a tire so worn, there was no visible tread left. But rotted rubber wasn't the only problem with the tires, investigators say the fourth tire wasn't even the same size as the rest.

The report also shows all the factory installed seats and seat belts in the back of the van had been removed and replaced with wooden benches and a couple of re-installed seat belts screwed into the benches.

Investigators found one brake with a broken hold down spring and another had a disconnected self-adjuster cable, which means the brakes weren't working the way they should have been.

Authorities say not only was the van in poor shape, it was crowded and overweight.

A civil suit has also been filed in connection with the crash.

The suit alleges the defendants, James and Robert Allen, were negligent due to unsafe speed, unsafe lane movement, overweight load, driving on defective tires, improper safety equipment, and improper maintenance of the van.

Allen's next court hearing is December 3.

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