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Truck Accident: Seven Years for Seven Lives Lost

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Lake Butler, FLA truck accident that took the lives of seven young children—five from one family alone—has resulted in the sentencing of the semi driver to seven years in prison.

Alvin Wilkerson was piloting his tractor-trailer south on Florida State Road 121 when, late in the afternoon of January 25th 2006, the rig slammed into the back of a car carrying seven children. The impact forced the car hard into the back end of a school bus, itself loaded with children. Three students were ejected from the rear of the school bus, while two occupants of the car were ejected. A total of nine students on the bus, together with the bus driver, were injured.

AccidentThe occupants in the car didn't stand a chance. The car was torpedoed into the back and underneath the school bus before bursting into flames. Seven children, ranging in age from 15 to 20 months, were killed. Tragically, five of the seven children were all from the same family, and those children's grandfather died of a heart attack shortly after hearing news of the horrific crash.

There were no adults in the car. One of two 15-year-olds in the car was driving on a learner's permit. While the latter is illegal, there is nothing to suggest that the underage driver had done anything to contribute to the crash.

Blame was affixed to the driver of the semi, Wilkerson. He was hauling a load of bottled water on the afternoon of January 25th 2006, and had been awake for 34 continuous hours at the time of the collision. According to the testimony given by officers with the Florida Highway Patrol, such a degree of sleep deprivation would essentially result in Wilkerson driving while effectively asleep. He pleaded no contest to seven counts of vehicular homicide and 10 counts of culpable negligence causing injury.

Those close to the case say there may be a possibility of other actions emerging from this horrific case.

Compliance officers with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) state this case serves as a reminder of the federal law pertaining to driving while sleep deprived—a law that's been on the books since the 1930 and 1940s, and the law that served as impetus for State statutes regulating the act of driving while fatigued, that have been around for 30 years or more.

"We hope this case will save some lives in the future by putting truckers and trucking companies on notice that this is a law that will be enforced," FHP Lieutenant Bill Leeper said, in comments to a reporter with the Gainesville Sun.

The 35-year-old driver, Alvin Wilkerson, was sentenced to as many years in prison, it turns out, as there were lives lost in that flaming car under the back of the school bus—lives that continue to be memorialized by a collection of flowers, crosses and teddy bears still sitting at the crash site 18 months later.

The man was also ordered to pay $50 for each day he spends in State Prison, as compensation for his care. That translates, effectively, into a nearly $128,000 fine.
A remorseful Wilkerson, who wept openly in the courtroom, professed his faith in God and begged the court not to view him as a heartless person. However, that is little comfort for the families of those children lost, or injured in the accident. Many of those injured were severely traumatized, and sustained injuries that will continue to be a factor into their adult years.

As for the families of the children who died, there is both the loss, and the emotional trauma of having to contend with the horrific way in which their children died. The one family, who incredibly lost five children, must now contend with an empty house, bereft of laughter.

All because someone burned the candle at both ends, deciding in the process that sleep was an unnecessary distraction to work.

That decision, and the truck accident that followed, cost seven lives.


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Posted by

We lost seven family members all killed semi crash into the back of them into another truck. He never did any jail time. They said no drugs or alcohol was involved. Four of them children where is our justice this happen in 2013 In indiana the system is messed up. He had to fall asleep or looking down or driving to fast. Just a shame God is keeping us all. Please pray for us.

Posted by

If Cole had read the facts, Cole would understand that the truck driver chose to drive on public roads without having slept in nearly a day and a half. In such a physical state, the truck driver made a choice that resulted in a rear-end collision. Cole would also understand that the driver of the car did nothing to cause the accident and her driver's licence status was thus irrelevant. The truck driver was totally responsible for this tragedy. Accidents do happen, but driving a semi truck in a state of mind that allows a bright yellow bus with flashing lights to disappear from sight leaves little room for sympathy.

Posted by

Instead of going after the drivers, how about focusing on the companies that push the drivers for such little pay, i feel bad about the families for sure, however unless the root of the problem is addressed (Companies) all the regulations and attacks on drivers will not stop this problem.

Posted by

I live in Lake Butler Florida and in my eyes the family of the seven kids should be in trouble do to the fact the girl was only 15 years old and had a learners permit the parents should be in trouble too.Accidents happen the truck driver didn't say I think I might rear end this car in front of me.The parents of the seven kids got a lot of money.But the poor truck driver got seven years in prison.I'm not blaming anyone but come on give the truck driver some peace of mind because he has to live with the fact he accidentally killed kids and little baby's.I pass the sight almost every day and think about what happened and wish I could have been there I would have tried to do something.The sight of the fatal accident that happened on State Road 121 is beautiful the way it's all set up.May God Bless Everyone who was involved.My heart goes out to all of y'all.May the healing take some time but it will get better.


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