Local News

Esau Dixon Trial Gets Underway in Durham

Posted September 9, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

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

Opening arguments got underway before noon Tuesday. Esau Dixon of Virginia is on trial for involuntary manslaughter. Many in the courtroom have vivid memories of the accident that occurred just over a year 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. The other was a radio announcer from WDNC.

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

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

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

Photographer:Ron Pittman