Cause of Fatal Truck Accident Debated

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) – It’s been nearly two years since a local woman lost her mother in a tragic truck crash on U.S. 20 in Rockford. While she never made it to the gruesome scene that day, she’s now reliving the accident through a dash-cam video that captured the moment her mom was killed.

Debate now surrounds what caused the driver to crash as attorneys for both the criminal and civil lawsuits say they want this DriveCam video you’ll only see on 23 News shown in court.

“I know that if I were in the car, I wouldn’t have survived but it’s hard for me to think she went through that alone.”

Nikki Kaderly’s life changed in eight seconds, a unique camera capturing the moment her mother Jenny was killed while stopped for a rollover crash on U.S. 20 in Rockford in March of 2013.

“I remember falling to my knees. I was just so sick to my stomach that she when through that.”

Nikki was supposed to be inside the mangled and nearly unrecognizable car, however she decided last minute to stay behind, a decision that may have saved her life.

“There’s not a day I don’t miss her and cry thinking about her.”

Those tears have turned into determination, a quest to find out what happened prior to the eight seconds that were captured on video.

“It sure looks to me like his eyes are closed.”

Nikki’s attorney for the civil suit, Greg Coplan has handled dozens of complex truck crashes. Today, he’s representing Nikki and her family and believes the Black Horse Carries semi-driver, 35-year-old Rigoberto Vazquez fell asleep behind the wheel, claiming video taken from a camera mounted inside the truck shows the worker’s eyes closing seconds before Jenny Pivot was killed.

“63 miles per hour he is maintaining his speed. There is no evidence that he is recognizing there are people in front of him stopped. The only conclusion I have is he was falling asleep,” says Coplan.

Copeland’s theory is backed by a state indictment, charging Vazquez with reckless homicide, the document saying the defendant “fell asleep while driving, failed to brake, and crashed into Jenny Pivot.”

The bill also states “Vazquez was speeding for traffic conditions.”

“Everyone can see his eyelids are heavy, he doesn’t appear to show any recognition that a crash is ahead and drives 60 mph.”

“The expression on his face is not because he is having a dream, he’s awake and he just sees it.”

Nischal Raval us representing Vazquez in the criminal case. He sees things much different. Raval believes his client was nearly blinded by the emergency lights 400 feet ahead and was unable to see Jenny’s car until a half second before the crash.

Whitney Martin: Witnesses have stated that he was driving too fast before the crash, do you think that he was?

Raval: He was going the speed limit. He was going 65 miles per hour, the video bares that out as well.

Martin: They are saying for conditions though.

Raval: What were the conditions though?

Martin: The accident ahead.

Attorney Fred Morelli: He didn’t know what it was. No one said, “Hey, there’s an accident up there, you better slow down.” The police knew there was an accident. He didn’t, he approaches something going on 450 feet ahead of the vehicle that he hit he begins to slow down in ample time for that 450 feet and he is blinded by the headlights. He doesn’t see that vehicle until the last minute.

Martin: But the universal sign when you see flashing lights is to stop?

Morelli: But he’s 450 feet from it. The car he hits is 450 feet from that.

Raval claims a red dot shown during the video shows the moment Vazquez hit the brakes, a half second before impact, slamming into Jenny’s car at just over 60 miles per hour.

Martin: Some believe he is sleeping a half second before the crash and that the crash woke him up.

Raval: That’s not the case.

Martin: Why?

Raval: Because he slows down and the brake is on. The crash didn’t wake him up.

“Whatever explanation there is, whether he is asleep, or drowsy, or not paying attention, the fact of the matter remains that Jenny Pivot is dead today because he didn’t slow down,” says Coplan.

While the video is hard to watch, Nikki hopes making the footage public could save a life, similar to that of the loved one’s she lost in those eight seconds.

“I know people make mistakes but that couple second lack in judgment cost me more than I can express.”

Martin: What do you say to people who believe his eyes are closed or believe that he may not have been falling asleep?

Coplan: All I can tell you is what we all see.

Raval: We say take a closer look.

Gerry Niedert, the owner of Black Horse Carriers in Illinois says he’s also waiting on experts to analyze the video and calls the crash devastating. He says safety is his company’s number one priority, saying the business always operates legally.

The video of the DriveCam video came from both attorneys who say it needs to be looked at frame by frame.

When trucker brakes hard, it saves a recording of what happened before and after, what experts call a heartbreak event.

Tonight on 23 News at 10, we’ll preview another investigation into the trucking industry, unrelated to this crash. A retired truck driver tells 23 News anchor Whitney Martin thousands of his peers are breaking the law every day. What he says he had to do to make ends meet, a preview at 10.

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