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Marion County, Florida Truck Accident Blamed On Driver’s Cell Phone Use Just Before Hitting Bus

Citra, Florida – A Florida truck accident turned tragic Tuesday afternoon when a tractor trailer crashed into the rear of a school bus.

The truck driver who caused the Florida truck accident told investigators he was on his cell phone just before the impact with the bus. A 13-year-old student was killed and several other students were injured.

According to a Florida Highway Patrol report, Reinaldo A. Gonzalez, 30, of Orlando, admitted having been on the phone just before his 1991 Freightliner slammed into the stopped bus. The report lists contributing causes as driver distraction, careless driving and possible faulty brakes. The Florida truck accident occurred on U.S. 301 south of Citra.

Investigators plan to review, among other things, Gonzalez’s driving log to learn how long he had been behind the wheel and Department of Transportation records indicating his truck had been placed “out of service” by the DOT just hours before the crash for having faulty brakes.

According to investigators, there was no indication the truck was over loaded which can make stopping difficult.

A preliminary accident report showed that Gonzalez’s truck had been inspected at a weigh station on I-95 at 3:30 a.m. and was taken out of service for brake problems. Florida Department of Transportation rules require that when a truck is taken out of service, the violation must be fixed before the vehicle is allowed to go back on the road. FDOT spokesman Lt. Jeff Frost offered no comment about the truck other than to say that the brake inspection was part of their ongoing investigation.

This is not the first time Gonzalez’s truck was taken off the road due to safety violations.

According to DOT records, Gonzalez’s truck was placed out of service on April 12, 2007, for having a broken head lamp and three bald tires.

Witnesses to the Florida bus accident said it didn’t look like the truck even tried to stop before crashing into the bus.

Gonzalez later told another truck driver that he didn’t see the school bus.

Gonzalez had several other DOT safety violations since 2005 when he obtained his commercial driver’s licence and began driving tractor trailers, none of which resulted in his vehicle being placed out of service.

In the past, the DOT has cited Gonzalez for three counts of failing to display proper truck identification on his vehicle, again cited for failure to properly display vehicle identification tags on his truck, and for not keeping his driving log current. The driving log allows DOT to track whether the driver has had the required amount of rest.

Federal trucking regulations allow truck drivers to drive 11 consecutive hours without a break or 15 nonconsecutive hours before resting at least 10 hours.

The 1996 school bus, which had stopped to let children off at Northeast 155th Street Road, apparently had its warning lights on and stop signs out. The impact catapulted the school bus forward about 294 feet and caused the two vehicles to burst into flames.

Frances Margay Schee, a 13-year-old North Marion Middle School student, was killed in the crash. Several other students were treated for injuries at Munroe Regional Medical Center Tuesday night. they were:

Valerie Arguelles, 17
Courtney Mitchell, 14
Natalya Mitchell, 13
Taylor Parker, 12
Ashley Axson, 14
Natalie Humber, 13
Joshua Humber, 16
Another student, Joshua’s sister JaSena Humber, 11, was seriously injured and was transported to Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville for emergency medical treatment.

Gonzalez and the bus driver, Anzoria N. Allen-James were both taken to the hospital with injuries as well. They have since been released.

In Florida, truck accidents are a very serious problem. More so than in other states. See my earlier post, “Florida truck accidents among most frequent in U.S.”

The most common causes of Florida truck accidents include driver fatigue, poorly maintained brakes, improperly loaded trailers and inadequate driver training.

Victims of truck accidents are at greater risk of suffering catastrophic injury or death because of the size and weight. A fully loaded tractor trailer can weigh almost 80,000 pounds. That is 10 times the weight of many passenger cars.

Florida truck accident cases involve many complex issues. There are federal and state regulations that apply to large commercial trucks and a thorough knowledge of these laws is essential in order to achieve fair compensation for truck accident victims.

The experienced Florida truck accident lawyers at Hannon Legal Group work with the top trucking experts in order to determine the liability of the truck driver and trucking company. Our Miami personal injury lawyers handle personal injury and wrongful death cases arising out of truck accidents and bus accidents all over the state of Florida.

If you have been injured or someone you know has been injured or killed in a Florida truck accident, contact a Florida truck accident attorney today.