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Investigators: Truck driver charged in fatal hit-and-run is 'imminent hazard'

Posted April 27, 2013

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— The truck driver responsible for the hit-and-run death Tuesday of a 7-year-old girl in Harrells has been ordered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration not to operate any commercial vehicle for interstate commerce. 

According to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Johnny Allen Spell, 37, of 192 Bud Spell Lane in Roseboro, passed a stopped school bus Tuesday, 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.

The FMCSA said Friday that Spell is an "imminent hazard to public safety."

“Safety is our highest priority,” United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “Unsafe truck drivers who endanger children and other members of the public have no business on our nation’s roads.”

Federal investigators are also looking into Ricky Lucas Trucking, the company that employed Spell. A spokeswoman said Thursday that officials are investigating the company's hiring practices, financial records and compliance. 

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

“FMCSA will continue to assist state and local law enforcement officials, who are leading the investigation, in every way possible,” FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said in a statement. “We demand that commercial drivers operate their vehicles with a high regard for public safety.”

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

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.


This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • simplelogic Apr 30, 10:41 a.m.

    "Individuals like this one should NEVER be allowed to operate any kind of motor vehicle again EVER!!!!"

    Individuals like this one should never see the view outside the prison gates ever again.

  • btneast Apr 29, 2:09 p.m.

    ripe, my problem is the state has yet to open an investigation against the company. Why? Even when they picked this guy up, they didn't question the company

    You've been watching too much TV. Government bureaucracies just don't move that fast...if at all. Just because you haven't seen a public announcement, it doesn't mean an investigation isn't underway. They can't shut the company down UNTIL they have done enough investigating to determine if it is warranted.

  • ripetomatoes Apr 29, 1:40 p.m.

    I agree 100%, babedan. The state employees with the authority to oversee this company were just seat-warmers until this incident. The state will probably wait until the feds finish their investigation and then agree with the results, hoping for it to look like they were somehow involved with any corrective action.

  • babedan Apr 29, 12:34 p.m.

    ripe, my problem is the state has yet to open an investigation against the company. Why? Even when they picked this guy up, they didn't question the company. Did some politician owe the company owner a favor? The state should have put the company on hold not able to deliver until they had a chance to throughly look at their records and find out why this individual was driving. Then the state should have looked at themselves and ask why was a Truckers license issued to this man after his DWI Conviction.

  • torchhappysean Apr 29, 12:22 p.m.

    Individuals like this one should NEVER be allowed to operate any kind of motor vehicle again EVER!!!! Not even a moped or golf cart!!!!

  • ripetomatoes Apr 29, 12:05 p.m.

    Why did it take the Feds to open an investigation into the company? babedan

    Trucking companies such as this boondoggle fall under the jurisdiction of the state and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration because they routinely cross state lines. My guess would be that neither agency took their job very seriously until this tragedy occurred.

  • kermit60 Apr 29, 10:33 a.m.

    "imminent hazard to public safety." really, it took a government agency with a bunch of overpaid einsteins to figure that out after this guy killed someone? At least there is at least one government agency who agrees with 100% of the population.

  • Deb1003 Apr 29, 9:03 a.m.

    This man passed a stopped school bus, ran over a young child and kept going. He's more than an "imminent hazard", he's a murderer.

  • babedan Apr 29, 9:02 a.m.

    Why was he issued a commerical license to begine with? Just because you know someone from the time he was a little boy, doesn't mean you don't run a check making sure his license is valid. Last, Why did it take the Feds to open an investigation into the company? Shouldn't the state have started that the day after the arrest?

  • udoowutchyalike Apr 29, 8:39 a.m.

    What a senseless death! There needs to be stricter fines or consequences for these DUI DWI clowns! And for the lawyer who probably got him off his DWI for a lessor penalty, they should be ashamed!