Florida crash stuns trucking community

| 1/26/2006

America’s trucking community joined family and friends of victims Thursday, Jan. 26, following a fiery crash that killed seven young members of one family near Lake Butler, FL, on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

E-mail and phone calls to OOIDA headquarters conveyed a collective sense of shock as news unraveled details of the tragic accident. On the OOIDA Web site, the comments from truckers have ranged from simply “very sad” to a Crete driver whose heart was heavy for “those kids who lost their lives.”

According to Florida authorities, Alvin Wilkerson, a 31-year-old driver for Crete Carrier was on a rural, two-lane highway when he rear-ended a Pontiac Bonneville and slammed it into a school bus that had stopped to unload students.

The Bonneville burst into flames and its seven occupants died at the scene. A 15-year-old girl who was driving and her brothers and sisters – ages 21 months to 15 all died.

Three children were thrown from the school bus and are in serious condition.

The driver of the truck was not seriously injured.

No charges have been filed, but Florida Highway Patrol Office Lt. Bill Leeper told “Land Line Now” charges are pending. He also said the driver was routinely tested for alcohol or drug use, but those results aren’t in yet.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to Lake Butler. NTSB said the team arrived Wednesday night.

Nebraska-based Crete Carrier issued a statement Wednesday saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are with those involved in this accident and their families.”

– Reed Black, staff writer