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Judge delays judgment in fatal crash civil case

By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.com

A federal judge has agreed to stay the judgment entry against a trucking company ruled negligent in a fatal Shenandoah County crash.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski stayed the order against Arkansas-based Pat Salmon & Sons Inc. and driver John Joseph Banik, of Coldwater, Miss., June 26, according to online court records.

A jury ruled earlier last month that the two were negligent in the April 2009 crash on Interstate 81 that killed Hilario Guox Vicente, 27, and Ramiro Vicente-Ajun, 35, who were both from Edinburg, and Brighton, Tenn., resident Dennis Lavelle Fayne, 50. Jurors didn't find the other defendants, C. Bean Transport Inc., of Amity, Ark., and driver William Michael Fewell, of Bedias, Texas, negligent.

Fewell's and Banik's tractor-trailers had collided, and Fayne had gotten out of Banik's truck following the crash. Vicente and Vicente-Ajun were in a Hyundai that stopped for the crash, and were struck by a Pitt Ohio Express LLC truck driven by Thomas Troxel Miller of Three Churches, W.Va., and pushed into Banik's tractor-trailer.

Pitt Ohio and Miller had settled with the victims' families for $2.175 million, and then sought out that amount from the defendants in the lawsuit, claiming their negligence had caused the initial crash which led to the fatal wreck.

Miller and Pitt Ohio later amended their suit to seek about $1.7 million.

Salmon & Sons and Banik moved for a stay in the judgment on June 25. The motion states they planned to file post-trial motions, and possibly an appeal of the entire case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and more time was needed to do this than the normal 30-day appeal deadline.

Urbanski's order schedules a hearing for the post-trial motions on July 31, with motions due by July 10.

No further motions had been posted on the federal court's website as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

In a deposition taken April 6, but filed online July 2, Steven Troy Wilbanks, 37, of Chatsworth, Ga., says he was driving a tractor-trailer on I-81 when he witnessed the crash.

In the heavily redacted deposition, Wilbanks states he had to slow down due to fog, which affected visibility. According to the deposition, the Hyundai had earlier passed him at a high rate of speed and cut him off, forcing him to brake, before cutting off the Pitt Ohio truck and then hitting the brakes hard.

Wilbanks states the Pitt Ohio tractor-trailer rear-ended the car, and hit another truck, which swerved off the road and overturned in the median. Wilbanks then rushed to help the crash victims.

Wilbanks states it appeared the Pitt Ohio truck was on top of the car, which was on fire.

A seriously injured Miller was saying, "over and over 'My God, who have I killed? My God, who have I killed?" according to the deposition.

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