ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. — A truck driver who crashed into the back of a school bus, killing a 5-year-old girl in Robeson County, had a lengthy driving record, according to authorities. Despite his checkered driving past, the trucker had a valid commercial driver's license.
A day after the deadly wreck that killed 5-year-old Sheila Hernandez, investigators have turned their attention from the scene of the accident to Mountaire Farms, a chicken plant that hired Gary Garnett and gave him a truck to drive. Authorities are making sure the company met all federal and state requirements.
Mountaire Farms was supposed to check that Garnett had a valid commercial driver's license and a clean driving record for the three years before he was hired in October.
"We take that very seriously. We have requirements within our company that are stricter than the federal government requires," said Mike Tirrell, vice president of Mountaire Farms.
Troopers said Garnett reached down for his cell phone that had fallen down on the floor of his vehicle, which led to the accident. State records show Garnett received at least 21 driving citations or charges since 1984, though many of them were dismissed.
Tirrell said his company followed the rules.
"His driving record had absolutely no moving violations, no speeding tickets, no revocations, no accidents. It was totally clean," he said.
The Division of Motor Vehicles can revoke a license for a number of infractions that include speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, following too closely, driving without a license or being involved in a fatal accident.
However, a driver must break two of the rules within two years to lose the license for 60 days and three times in three years for 120 days.
Two people remain in the hospital. Garnett is listed in fair condition. Maria Hernandez, the mother of the girl is in fair condition.