The Alabama Department of Corrections has finally changed the way it transports job applicants to sites around the state. But it took a terrible tragedy to bring the change about. Without question it comes about as the direct result of the horrific crash of a prison van that left seven people dead last fall. Correctional officer Rodney Kelley was driving a Department security van with six job applicants on board when the crash occurred in the early morning hours of October 3, 2008. All of the passengers in the van and Mr. Kelley were killed. Our firm is representing two of the victims’ families and knows firsthand how devastating this ordeal has been for all of the families.
The previous policy was one that in my opinion should never have been in place. Now the Department no longer uses vans that lock passengers in the back for the courtesy rides to application sessions. Passengers could not get out of the vans – without being let out – in the event of a crash. That was the old system. The vans the victims were in when the crash occurred were actually caged vans that were used to haul prison inmates around. I understand that regular vans will now be used when private citizens or employees are being transported.
In the crash that brought about the change, an 18-wheeler traveling at a high rate of speed was attempting to pass in a no-passing zone when it collided with the prison van. The victims in the van died trapped inside after the van caught fire and burned. A tractor-trailer was traveling in an easterly direction and was trying to pass another truck also heading east on U.S. Highway 82. The prison van was headed west and coming around a curve when two the vehicles collided and burst into flames.
Our investigation has revealed that the passing truck had been signaled to pass in a no-pass zone by the slower moving truck headed in the same direction. As a result, both drivers were at fault and there was an awful tragedy resulting in the loss of seven innocent lives. The civil lawsuits filed by the victims’ families over the crash are all pending in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Judge Charles Price consolidated all of the cases for discovery purposes only. The cases will be tried separately and hopefully in the near future.
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