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Trucker probed in trooper's death ordered to park

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | 11:23 a.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — A Georgia trucker who lost consciousness before his tractor-trailer struck and killed an Illinois state trooper isn't medically fit to drive commercially, federal regulators have determined.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in an order issued last Friday, found that Johnny Felton Jr. "failed to exercise an appropriate duty of care to the motoring public" regarding his medical conditions the agency said disqualified him from trucking.

The department didn't detail Felton's conditions, which were redacted in the agency's order.

Citing Felton's "present state of unacceptable safety compliance," regulators immediately placed Felton out of service after agency investigators found what it called serious concerns about his medical condition and qualifications under his Georgia-issued commercial driver's license. Investigators also determined Felton failed to disclose to a medical examiner his medical situation and related prescribed medications, which the agency said were found in his truck after the deadly Nov. 26 wreck.

"This case sends a clear message that we will use every tool at our disposal to identify and remove from our roads unsafe operators," said Anne Ferro, the motor carrier safety administration's chief. "Our agency is committed to raising the bar for commercial vehicle and driver safety."

When reached Tuesday by telephone at his home in Hinesville, Ga., Felton told The Associated Press he had no comment about the accident or the directive that he stop trucking, saying he needed to consult his attorney.

No charges have been filed against Felton in the accident that killed Illinois State Police trooper Kyle Deatherage along Interstate 55 near Litchfield, about 55 miles northeast of St. Louis. Authorities say Deatherage, 32, was working a traffic stop when he was hit by a passing truck. Deatherage died at the scene.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Felton was driving for Dot Transportation Inc. based in Mount Sterling, Ill. — a wholly owned subsidiary of Dot Foods Inc., which bills itself as the nation's biggest food redistributor.

Jim Tracy, the company's senior vice president and general counsel, also declined to comment, citing ongoing investigations by the company and the Illinois State Police.

Chris Matoush, the top prosecutor in Montgomery County, where the crash happened, told the AP that the administrative move by federal regulators to order Felton to no longer truck was separate from the criminal investigation he said "is progressing rather rapidly."

"There very well may be charges filed," Matoush said, though he could not say publicly when that decision could come.


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