LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A trucking company involved in a crash that killed six people in Kentucky had accumulated 17 traffic violations over two years before the accident, leading federal authorities to advise states to closely inspect its vehicles.
Despite the warning to states, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gave Highway Star Inc., a satisfactory rating based on its overall performance during that two-year span ending March 3. The rating factors in both traffic stops and safety inspections, and the company had a slightly better record of passing the inspections than the national average.
The 17 traffic violations were for speeding, improper lane change, following too closely to another vehicle and failure to wear a seatbelt.
Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for the agency, said the warning is meant to notify inspectors in each state when a trucking company's vehicles deserve closer inspections, but the notification doesn't require them to do so. Inspectors at weigh stations, state troopers and other authorities have access to the notices.
Phone and email messages left for Highway Star in Oak Park, Mich., were not immediately returned Monday.
During the two-year period, 12 of 59 inspections of Highway Star's trucks resulted in a vehicle being taken out of service – a rate of 20.3 percent. That's just below the national average of 20.72 percent of inspections resulting in removals.
Out of 124 driver inspections over that period, seven resulted in drivers being taken out of service – a rate of 5.6 percent. That's slightly above the national average of 5.51 percent. Driver inspections involve separate criteria than vehicle inspections and can be done more frequently.
Highway Star owns 35 vehicles, but it wasn't clear how many drivers it employs.
A tractor-trailer owned by the company and driven by 47-year-old Ibrahim Fetic of Troy, Mich., struck the Ford Expedition traveling north on Interstate 65 around midday Saturday near Glendale, Ky., about 50 miles south of Louisville.
Killed were driver James Gollnow and his wife, Barbara Gollnow, both 62 and of Pella, Wis.; their 92-year-old friend, Marion Chapnoise, also of Pella; 18-year-old Sareena Gollnow, the couple's adoptive daughter; and the couple's foster children, 10-year-old Gabriel Zumig and 8-year-old Soledad Smith. The Gollnows had lived in Florida and Tennessee before moving back to the Pella area in 2008.
A combined memorial service for James, Barbara and Sareena Gollnow will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Marion Elementary School gymnasium in Marion, Wis. Friends may call from 1 p.m. to the time of the service, according to Eberhardt-Stevenson Funeral Home in Marion. Services for Chapnoise will be held a later date, the funeral home said.
Two other foster children survived and were taken to area hospitals. Police identified them as Hope Hoth, 15, who was transported to a hospital in Lexington with burns and a broken spine; and Aidian Ejnik, 12, who was taken to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville with cuts to the back of his head.
Kentucky State Police Master Trooper Norman Chaffins said Fetic was following the SUV too closely, but no charges had been filed as of Monday. Chaffins said the case will be turned over to prosecutors to decide if anyone should be charged.
Police are also blaming a four-vehicle collision in the southbound lanes on drivers being distracted by the first fiery crash. In the secondary wreck, 36-year-old Gregg Lohman, the drummer for country music singer Kellie Pickler, suffered head and neck injuries and was taken to the University of Louisville Hospital. He was in serious condition Sunday evening.
Lohman's condition was not available Monday morning. Hospital spokesman David McArthur said Lohman was no longer listed as a patient there. Pickler's management could not immediately be reached for comment.
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