Truck driver changes plea to guilty

The man, who caused a small pileup resulting in two deaths, changed his plea after evidence continued mounting against him.
Monday, April 23, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:57 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Missouri truck driver accused of causing the deaths of two people in an accident on Interstate 70 in April 2006 changed his plea to guilty on two counts of second-degree involuntary manslaughter Monday.

Columbia Police concluded that Carl J. West, 62, of Novinger, caused the April 28 accident by failing to slow down for traffic that stopped in a work zone. Boone County Prosecutor April Wilson recommended three years in prison, but made no recommendation on whether to suspend that sentence and place West on parole.

West’s sentencing was set for June. He made no statement at his hearing this morning.

Police said West, who was employed by B&C Trucking in La Plata, was negligent when he killed Cheryl Card, 54, of Lincoln, Neb., and John Ferkel, 40, of St. Peters. Card’s husband, Kirt, was injured in the accident.

West, who was driving a semi truck with no trailer attached, told accident investigators he came over a low hill near mile marker 130. He said the hill obstructed his view of a temporary construction zone where the left lane had been blocked and traffic had stopped in the right lane.

West hit the Card’s car, which was stopped. West then hit Ferkel’s minivan, pushing it under a tractor-trailer driven by Robert Montgomery, 45, of Lakewood, Ohio.

According to police reports, West, Montgomery and Kirt Card did not recall seeing construction zone warning signs before reaching the construction area set up by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The speed limit in the work zone was not reduced from 70 miles per hour, the usual speed at the site of the accident.

West has an extensive record of driving and trucking offenses dating back to 1973. Police say he admitted to intentionally falsifying his log, including the amount he slept the night before the accident.

West said he hit the brakes and tried to turn away from the cars, but a witness driving behind him said he saw no brake lights, and there were no skid marks to indicate braking.

Contrary to West’s claim, police said they found no sight obstructions for a westbound driver at the site.

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