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Esau Dixon Trial Gets Underway in Durham

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DURHAM — One of the worst accidents along one of themost dangerous stretches of highway in our state killed eight people last year. Now, the trucker accused of causing that crash on Interstate-85 inDurham County is on trial for involuntary manslaughter.

Opening arguments got underway before noon Tuesday. Esau Dixon ofVirginia is on trial for involuntary manslaughter. Many in thecourtroom have vivid memories of the accident that occurred just over ayear ago. Dixon's 18-wheeler slammed into a line of slow-moving traffic,causing a chain reaction collision involving several vehicles. Seven of the victims were in a van on a field trip from Umstead State Hospital. Theother was a radio announcer from WDNC.

Defense attorneys tried to suppress statements Dixon made after theaccident. They also attempted to suppress information about the discoveryof a prescription drug in the cab of Dixon's truck. The judge denied bothmotions.

The drug is known to possibly cause side effects such aslight-headedness, dizziness and drowsiness. Experts want to determine ifthat might have been a factor in the accident.

Many of the victims' family members are in attendance in the DurhamCounty courtroom.

Photographer:Ron Pittman