Driver In Fatal Crash May Not Have Been Qualified For Commercial License
Posted July 8, 2003 7:22 a.m. EDT
PITTSBURGH — The truck driver charged by police in
a fiery crash that killed a vacationing family of five from Smithfield, N.C.,
was operating his tractor-trailer with a commercial driver's license he may not have been qualified for, authorities said Tuesday.
Police also were investigating why Ejub Grcic was on the rural Butler County road before the Monday afternoon crash. They said his big rig was too heavy for the road, which had a 10-ton limit.
Authorities have accused Grcic, 54, of West Valley Utah, of running a stop sign and killing Ken and Janet Kerr and their three children, all of whom had been visiting relatives in the area.
State police said four people in the family's car died at the scene: Janet A. Kerr, 35; Kathleen A. Kerr, 13; Kenneth E. Kerr III, 4; and Alessandra S. Hall, 16, Janet Kerr's daughter from a previous marriage.
The driver, Kenneth E. Kerr Jr., 35, died at about 7 a.m. Tuesday, police said.
Traci Hindman, who owns the Granny Haus pizza shop at the intersection, heard the crash and saw the driver running alongside the tractor-trailer engulfed in flames.
"The smoke was way above the tree lines," Hindman said. "The tires kept popping. . . . The guy kept screaming: 'My family's in there. My family's in there. Please help my family.' He basically watched his family burn to death."
Grcic was being held in the Butler County jail Tuesday after failing to post $500,000 bond. He has been charged with five counts of homicide by vehicle, one count each of driving an overweight truck and driving a commercial vehicle without being able to communicate with authorities, and related motor vehicle offenses.
Police said Grcic held a Utah commercial license.
Grcic, of Bosnian descent, needed a Croatian interpreter to communicate with police, Trooper Rob Lagoon said. He also needed an interpreter at his arraignment Tuesday.
David Longo, a spokesman for the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said a person doesn't have to speak English fluently to get a commercial driver's license but must "be able to communicate with law enforcement and be able to read signs."
Grcic was driving for E.H. Transport Inc. of West Valley, Utah, which registered as a for-hire motor carrier in January, Longo said.
Messages left at E.H. Transport weren't immediately returned.
The company didn't have a record involving any fatal or tow-away crashes, Longo said.
Utah DOT spokesman Tom Hudachko said the company had 45 inspections, but nothing serious enough turned up to trigger a departmental audit.
It was not immediately clear who Grcic's attorney was, and messages left for Grcic's family were not immediately returned.
A woman at the number who identified herself as his daughter declined to comment when reached Monday.
Kerr's father, Kenneth Kerr Sr., of East Brady, Clarion County, declined to comment. Messages left with another family member weren't returned Tuesday.
Hindman and John Hines, a Slippery Rock Township supervisor, called the intersection dangerous and said people were known to speed in the area. But Hines said the township hadn't complained to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Jim Struzzi, a PennDOT spokesman, said the crash would be investigated, but that the road wasn't considered dangerous.
"If there was a problem there, we would have known about it," he said.
Between 1996 and 2000, 14 crashes, including one in which a person was killed, occurred at the intersection.