Local News

Driver Charged in Fiery, Fatal I-40 Wreck

Posted August 21, 2007
Updated August 22, 2007

— A Fuquay-Varina man faces charges of driving with a revoked license in connection with a fiery, fatal wreck on Interstate 40. Prosecutors said that charge is being seen more commonly in North Carolina courtrooms.

Robert Klimczak, 22, was also charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in the eight-vehicle accident that happened near the Airport Boulevard exit on July 27. One person was killed and several other people injured.

Roger Smith, Jr., Klimczak's lawyer, said that his client was unaware that his license was revoked.

Klimczak's license was suspended after he failed to show up in court to face minor charges, not involving alcohol, stemming from an accident in 2006. Then, Klimczak was charged with having an expired registration and being uninsured, Smith said.

Klimczak was taken to a hospital after the accident and was never made aware of the charges or his court date, Smith said.

State troopers said the charges are still valid, whatever the circumstances under which Klimczak's license was revoked.

"The matter is that he was suspended at the time of this collision. What went on that got him to that point is irrelevant. The fact is that on that date and time, he was suspended," Lt. Everett Clendenin said.

Drivers can get their licenses revoked for a variety of reasons, said Neg Mangum, the assistant district attorney who is prosecuting Klimczak.

"Some for something as simple as missing a traffic ticket. Others are for much more serious things, driving while impaired, having your license revoked for alcohol-related offenses," Mangum said.

The result is that DWLRs, as Mangum called them, are becoming increasingly common in courts and on the roads.

In 2006, 147,000 people were charged with driving on revoked licenses in North Carolina. In 2005, that number was 144,000 - twice the number of people charged with drunk driving.

North Carolina's seeing part of a national trend, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Statistics. Nationally, 13.5 percent of fatal accidents between 1993 and 1999 involved unlicensed drivers, the study found.

Klimczak entered traffic court in 2006 to face charges of reckless driving to endanger and going 101 mph in a 65 mph zone, Smith said. Klimczak pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and to driving left of center, and was ordered to pay court costs. The speeding charge was dismissed.

None of those charges had any connection with his license being suspended, Smith said.

Troopers argued that Klimczak is responsible for causing the accident on I-40.

"We know that the driver on this occasion, from what we've determined, was not paying attention (and) lost control," Clendenin said, declining to be more specific.

Klimczak, a senior at North Carolina State University, was driving his father's pickup truck to work in Research Triangle Park, his father said. The truck clipped a second pickup, which collided with a tractor-trailer and sent the rig through the median barrier into oncoming traffic, authorities said.

A westbound tractor-trailer was hit by a pickup truck and went through a guardrail, across the median and into eastbound traffic before catching fire and exploding.

Nemeth F. Sanders, 43, of Bailey, the driver of one of three pickup trucks involved in the wreck, was killed, authorities said.

The wreck shut down I-40 in both directions for hours, and crews spent the rest of the weekend rebuilding about 100 feet of asphalt melted by burning diesel fuel and repairing the damaged guardrail.

Authorities said they hope the charges against Klimczak will serve as a warning to other drivers.

"You're thinking about your next meeting or what you're going to do when you get home, (and) in a split second, all that can change. People can lose their lives, (and) terrible things can happen," Clendenin said.

Authorities said Klimczak also might get the $35,000 bill for the work state highway crews had to do to repair the damage to I-40 after the wreck. He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 27.


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  • davashcow Aug 22, 2007

    Not much mention of the guard rail at this site. All I see when I ride by is flimsy steel. Taller concrete dividers would have saved much misery in this tragedy.

  • many moons Aug 22, 2007

    Some of u people needs wake up ,if u get a ticket , u miss your court date its called(failure to appear)a warrant is issue and dmv do send u a notice that your license is being revoked. I think he knew he had a suspended license.

  • TheBullCity Aug 22, 2007

    "Let's see, you have not received notice to renew your license, paid car insurace, or renew your plates in a year and you have no idea your license is revoked????"

    Car insurance and tags have nothing to do with it. The only tip off you would have is when you go to renew your license. They are good for like 8 years, so that's a long time to go revoked.

  • duster 340 Aug 22, 2007

    You are right 101mph , just drop that charge must have a layer.

  • zodad Aug 22, 2007

    Furthermore if ya suspect you have a pending court date for anything, you can probably go online and check the court calendars in your respective counties to see if you are on the list. Not a bad idea. Ya never know when a bench warrant may be issued for your arrest. Handy tool if you are a chronic violator. Oh I forgot, chronic violators don't have to take responsibility for their actions. They just play dumb and say duh I didn't know anything about this.......

  • zodad Aug 22, 2007

    "but this story makes me wonder how many people are revoked without knowing"


    It wouldn't matter what the reason for revocation was. If the revocation was in error and you had an accident then you have nothing to worry about. Anyone of us can have an accident. If the license was revoked for a legitimate reason then you have at least committed a misdemeanor. Most people know when they don't show up for even a traffic violation they will be subject to further penalties of some sort. People need to stop playing dumb and take responsibility. Show up at court, resolve the issue and go home. If ya don't resolve even a traffic ticket then you are responsible for all actions if your license is revoked. Your problem, you resolve it. Don't play dumb when the man catches up to you. What a bunch of babble. "didn't know they were revoked", didn't know they had a ticket pending in court. Hogwash.

  • spotted horse rider Aug 22, 2007

    Let's see, you have not received notice to renew your license, paid car insurace, or renew your plates in a year and you have no idea your license is revoked???? Come on fella, who you trying to kid??? Why else would you be driving daddy's truck?

  • 1 of the original Americans Aug 22, 2007

    What I want to know is how the state notifies people of revoked licenses. Is there someplace on the web I can go check? I've never had a ticket, or even been stoppd in the last five years, but this story makes me wonder how many people are revoked without knowing


  • TheBullCity Aug 22, 2007

    This situation appears to have more to do with the end result of his actions, rather than his actions. His intention was not to hurt anyone or cause a huge traffic snag. He is personally liable for the damage he cause, but criminally, that should have any weight.

    Two people commit the same crime, one person does little to no damage and another does huge damage. Same action, same intentions. Why should their criminal punishment be any different?

    The situation with DWLR notifications is unacceptable. Maybe if he had be notified that his licensed was revoked, he wouldn't have driven. Sounds like the DMV is liable. I'm being sarcastic, but some people have seriously suggested that his father was liable for letting him drive the truck. Same twisted reasoning.

  • zodad Aug 22, 2007

    "crncrnd - some data on traffic stops are at http://trafficstops.ncsbi.gov/ , but it's pretty raw data. The last analysis I saw came out two months ago, a report on drunk driving in 2005."


    Thank you for the info.