Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

TOP STORY >> Unsafe at any speed?

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Truck driver in fatal crash is identified

Donald Watkins, 35, of Bald Knob has been identified as the driver of the loaded gravel truck that apparently started the six-vehicle, chain-reaction accident that resulted in the death of Jerry S. Justice, Jr., of Ward, and the hospitalization of four other people Thursday, according to State Police reports.

State Police had not previously released the driver’s name.

Justice, of 22 Geraldine Court, the driver of a black 1995 Ford pickup truck, was pronounced dead at the scene from injuries sustained when the Burns Trucking Freightliner dump truck hauling gravel from Bald Knob to North Little Rock came upon stopped traffic on the Hwy. 67/167 overpass at Main Street in Jacksonville, and swerved into the right lane, slamming the two smaller trucks off the overpass and plunging with them down to Main Street below.

Three other vehicles involved in the accident stayed on the overpass and the occupants were not hospitalized, according to the report.

The overpass does not meet modern specifications and could be upgraded to meet standards.

“The accident is still under investigation, according to Capt. Gloria Weakland, Troop A commander.

The investigation would be forwarded to the Pulaski County Prosecutor’s office. She said that’s because it was a fatality accident with special circumstances, such as starting on a state highway and ending on a Jacksonville city Street.
Prosecutor Larry Jegley’s office confirmed Tuesday that it had not received the report.

Justice’s wife, Monica Justice, was still in stable condition at St. Vincent Medical Center Tuesday afternoon.
Justice’s mother, Patricia Jus-tice, also of Ward, is in stable condition in the Rebsamen Medical Center ICU Tuesday, according to a spokesman, and Danny Craw-ford was transferred to Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock Monday.

In the same 1990 GMC pickup truck with Crawford, 29, of Romance, was Tommy Simpson, 32, of Mt. Vernon.
Baptist Hospital said it could not release any information on Simpson, a patient since Thurs-day.

The accident stripped several concrete posts and guardrails from the inside southbound lane of Hwy. 67/167, but by Tuesday morning state Highway Depart-ment workers were restoring the railing, according to a Highway Department spokesman.

He said the repairs should be completed by early next week.

The overpass was built in 1960 to then-prevailing design standards, but could not be built that way today.

As per the 1960 standards, the two-lane overpass is 28 feet wide, built with guardrail attached to reinforced concrete posts.
The same overpass built today would be 40 feet wide.

Visitation for Justice will be from 6 until 8 p.m. Friday at Boyd Funeral Home, 202 E. Second Street in Lonoke, according to a funeral home representative. Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hicks Ceme-tery on Mt. Tabor Road (off Hwy. 31 North) in Lonoke County.

Justice was a security guard at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for the past six years, according to a hospital spokesman.
“Jerry was an outstanding officer, devoted to his family, a very dedicated employee,” according to Dan McFadden, spokesman for Children’s Hospital.

“He was customer friendly and always willing to go the extra mile for patients and their families,” said McFadden, “as well as ACH employees and fellow officers. He will definitely be missed by us all at ACH.”

McFadden said Justice’s fellow security guards would serve as pall- bearers at the funeral and a hospital memorial would be set at the family’s convenience.