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Feds investigating trucking company in 7-year-old's hit-and-run death

Posted April 25, 2013

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— The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is investigating a Sampson County-based company that employs a driver who was charged in the hit-and-run death Tuesday of a 7-year-old girl.

An administration spokeswoman said officials opened the investigation into Ricky Lucas Trucking on Thursday, two days after the North Carolina State Highway Patrol says Johnny Allen Spell passed a stopped school bus, hit Alyiah McKenzie Morgan and kept driving.

Morgan, a first-grader at Union Elementary School, died on her way to a local hospital. Spell, 37, was arrested several hours later and charged with driving while impaired while operating a commercial motor vehicle, involuntary manslaughter and felony hit and run.

Federal investigators are looking into all aspects of Ricky Lucas Trucking, including its hiring practices, financial records and compliance, the spokeswoman said.

Any penalties, she said, could range from a fine to shutting down operations.

According to court records, Spell has multiple drug arrests and convictions dating back a decade, along with a DWI conviction in 2008.

Feds probe Sampson Co. trucking company Feds probe Sampson Co. trucking company

The trucking company's owner, Ricky Lucas, said Thursday that he is fully cooperating with investigators, that he is sorry for what happened to Morgan and is praying for her family.

Lucas said he has one truck and drove it himself until he hired Spell about six months ago to replace him.

He did not do a background check, Lucas said, because he has known Spell since Spell was a boy and thought he knew him. Lucas said he had no idea about his criminal record.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Ricky Lucas Trucking has been in business since 2009.

Records show that earlier this month, the administration pulled Spell off the road because he hadn't paid a reinstatement fee for his commercial operator's license. It was later reinstated, and Spell's license was valid at the time of Tuesday's wreck.

The government is supposed to do on-site safety audits every two years on trucking companies, but, according to records, there have been none on the company since 2009.

23 Comments

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  • heisenberg Apr 29, 11:50 a.m.

    If he knew him all his life then he should have known the guy was a drunk and a habitual drug abuser.

  • btneast Apr 29, 8:12 a.m.

    Is that a requirement? If someone I've known all my life wanted a job, I'd probably hire them without a background check (unless it's legally required).

    Noble gesture, but foolish. It's about protecting yourself from liability.

  • btneast Apr 29, 8:09 a.m.

    Probably not. Nor would I consider doing a background check if all they were doing was driving a truck.

    In this day and age of lawsuits, driving YOUR vehicle is a prime reason to check a potential driver out. This case is a prime example of it. It's a matter of protecting yourself and all you have worked for from litigation. Our insurer does background checks on all drivers and tells us if they will allow him to be under our coverage.

  • magon1162 Apr 26, 11:36 a.m.

    @phaste82

    I agree with you. I'm from the area and that's all you hear about them.

  • bgibson3 Apr 26, 11:03 a.m.

    As many old logging trucks as I've seen, that you wonder how the State would allow them to remain on the road, the picture of the truck that hit her was of a brand new vehicle.

  • ThaTruth4 Apr 26, 10:55 a.m.

    @StringBean, ha, isn't that the truth!!

    I think that the "driver" is at fault. A lot of ppl have a record, does that mean that they should NEVER work?!? As a business owner, I do understand that when you have a business, it's YOUR responsibility to make sure everything is ran correctly, so the employer may get shut down. Well, whatever happens, this pretty little girl & her family is in our prayers!

  • phaste82 Apr 26, 10:20 a.m.

    By looking at the Fed. motor carrier website this company should have been investigated before now. The company's vehicle maint. discoverd by roadside checks was 94.4% which is over 8 times the amount for that type of trucking company. Which goes to show that if they didn't keep their equipment up you know that they didn't care about their driver. Just trying to save a dollar.

  • phaste82 Apr 26, 10:13 a.m.

    A company that hires CDL drivers are supposed to do background checks and random drug screens on their drivers. As far as not knowing this persons background anyone who lives in that area knows that the Spell boys have had many run ins with the law. Also the local paper has had stories of this drivers arrest for stealing and drug charges many times.

  • Obamacare survives Apr 26, 9:42 a.m.

    Background checks for all drivers and no special favors for friends. Shut this company down ASAP.

  • losthorizon63 Apr 26, 9:29 a.m.

    From the sounds of things, this company had two employees - the owner and the driver that was arrested. If I owned a company would I spend money, time, and resources getting my single employee drug tested every few months?

    Probably not. Nor would I consider doing a background check if all they were doing was driving a truck.

    If the employee has a current CDL, that is likely all I would consider relevant for that type of job. If the state believes he is a good enough driver to get and keep his CDL, that would be all it would take for me.

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