Local News

Driver charged in triple fatal I-40 crash

Posted July 1, 2011 10:13 a.m. EDT
Updated July 2, 2011 1:02 p.m. EDT

— A tractor-trailer driver faces multiple charges, including driving while impaired and possession of drugs, in Thursday's crash that killed three people on Interstate 40.

Ronald Eugene Graybeal, 50, of Newport, Tenn., is being held in the Durham County jail under a $500,000 bond.

He is charged with felony death by vehicle, two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle, DWI, possession of marijuana, methadone and drug paraphernalia.

Alcohol was not involved, according to authorities, who said Graybeal was charged with DWI because he had drugs in his system.

Troopers say Graybeal was driving west on I-40 near U.S. Highway 15/501 when he crashed into four vehicles, killing three of the drivers.

He first crashed into the back of a Ford F-250 truck driven by John Hall Llanio, 38, of Kannapolis, and then a Chevy Equinox driven by Barbara Boda Caldwell, 64, of Mebane, troopers said.

His tractor-trailer then hit a passenger vehicle driven by Gary Dwayne Smith, 45, of Burlington. The vehicle's make and model couldn't be identified because it was badly burned, authorities said.

Llanio, Caldwell and Smith all died in the crash.

Graybeal is also accused of crashing into a box truck driven by Reginald Keith Thompson, 49, of Greensboro, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was treated at Duke University Hospital and released.

Graybeal was driving for Hawley Transport based in Newport, Tenn.

Hawley Transport has two crashes in the past two years, including one with an injury or fatality.

The company has a record of problems with driver fatigue, but have not had violations for alcohol or substance abuse, according to records with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The company scored 81.4 percent for driver fatigue, which means it has a worse record for that problem than that percentage of other trucking companies on the road. That score means that the company has been made a priority for roadside inspections.

Hawley Transport also scored 31.1 percent in unsafe driving and 52.6 percent in vehicle maintenance.

I-85 crash victims identified

Meanwhile, authorities on Friday released the names of those involved in two crashes that shut down Interstate 85 for about five hours Thursday.

Steven Craig Thompson, 42, of Garner, was speeding when he lost control of his tractor-trailer and overturned near mile marker 165, troopers said. The tractor-trailer belongs to D.H. Griffin Wrecking Company in Greensboro.

Thompson was treated at UNC Hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries and was charged with exceeding the posted speed limit. Investigators did not say how fast he was traveling.

After Thompson's crash, traffic slowed to a standstill back to mile marker 164, where another crash happened that killed a 44-year-old truck driver.

More than 40 people on the roadway after the crash called 911.

"I was in front of it," one caller said. "I was past what happened, and I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw it sliding down the road sideways, and it tipped over."

"It looks like maybe a tractor-trailer or someone got turned," another caller said. "Debris was flying everywhere – and flames and smoke."

Billy Dean Brady Jr., of Kings Mountain, died after he failed to slow down for the traffic and crashed into a tanker truck, causing his tractor-trailer to burst into flames. Brady's truck belonged to Truck Services in Forest City.

The tanker truck, driven by Roland Hayes Redmon, then crashed into two vehicles – a Mazda Protege driven by Vivian Okelo, 23, of Raleigh, and a Ford Crown Victoria driven by Tanogia Angelique Torres, 35, of Efland.

Okelo and Torres were both in fair condition Friday at UNC Hospitals. A 7-year-old girl was also injured in the crash. She was in good condition Friday.