Roseboro, N.C. — 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.