Family of Arizona trooper plan awareness campaign of texting, cellphones

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 11/14/2013

One of the biggest stories in trucking this year was a fatality crash between a tanker truck driver and an Arizona trooper.

The May 6 crash between trucker Jorge Espinoza’s rig and the patrol car of Officer Tim Huffman on Interstate 8 in Yuma County, received national media attention after a Nov. 1 report in The Arizona Daily Star included dashcam video that purportedly shows Espinoza looking at his cell phone at the time of impact.

According to the report, officers found Espinoza had been looking at pictures of women on Facebook as he plowed into a series of emergency vehicles, which had stopped to respond to an earlier crash.

Now Huffman’s family have stepped forward to express their desire to start a campaign to raise awareness about the risks drivers take by texting or looking at their phones while behind the wheel.

In an email to OOIDA President Jim Johnston, Huffman’s sister-in-law, Tammy Huffman, said she hopes to create a public service announcement or an addition to driver-awareness courses.

“If I can save one family from the heartache of losing someone so dear to them, I will do whatever it takes,” the email stated.

Espinoza has been charged with second-degree murder, endangerment and criminal damage in Yuma County Superior Court.

Espinoza was driving an empty fuel tanker at 65 mph when he collided with three police cars and two fire trucks that were responding to an earlier crash on the interstate. Huffman was in his car when the crash occurred.

Espinoza initially told police he didn’t see the cars or DPS public safety captain directing traffic around a closed lane because he was looking in his mirror at a passing truck.

A dashcam camera in Espinoza’s rig shows both the view in the cab and of the roadway in the moments leading up to the crash. The video shows Espinoza’s phone fly out of his hand in the crash, although the view of the driver is initially obstructed by what appears to be a wallet.

A spokesman with the Arizona DPS declined to comment on the case pending a trial.

The Daily Star’s report states that Espinoza was logged into his Facebook page at the time of the crash, and that records from his phone show that he had also looked at YouTube, female escort websites, porn sites and social networks, according to investigators.

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