Judge determines I-40 crash an accident

June 13, 2008 3:33:30 PM PDT
A fiery crash on I-40 that killed one person and injured five was relived through court testimony Friday.

Robert Klimczak is facing charges of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and driving with a suspended license.

Choking back tears, witnesses and victims of last July's crash described what happened from their perspectives.

"A black truck came out of my lane and his lane and hit me, and then knocked me into the tractor-trailer truck," Michael Lassiter of Burlington said.

Lassiter testified he was on his way home -- cruising on I-40 in the westbound lanes near the RDU airport when a black pick-up driven by Klimczak of Fuquay-Varina hit him.

Troopers learned that Klimczak was driving with a suspended license. The initial impact sparked a terrifying chain of events.

"I was just holding on trying to brake, tying to stop," Lassiter said.

According to investigators, that tractor-trailer, also heading west, ended up losing control and crossing over the interstate guardrail before coming to a stop in the eastbound lanes.

"As it was crossing over I-40 east, the truck was already in flames before it came to rest on the highway," witness Scott Ashton said.

Another driver, who was pregnant at the time of the wreck, was driving with her nephew in the car. She was heading east and ended up slamming into the tractor-trailer.

The defense says Klimczak isn't to blame for the crash.

They argued that a tire on his truck became punctured and lost pressure, forcing the truck to veer into other traffic. The Highway Patrol testified it found no such evidence.

Closing arguments wrapped up Friday.

The judge ruled the wreck was not criminal and sentenced Klimczak to 45 days in jail for driving with a suspended license. But the judge suspended that sentence and placed him on supervised probation for 18 months.

Klimczak must complete 5 days of community service and pay court costs. He was found not guilty of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.


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