PRINCETON, Ind. (AP) — The driver of an overloaded van that overturned on a southwestern Indiana highway, killing two people, is accused of driving while intoxicated on marijuana and aggressive driving in criminal charges filed by a prosecutor Thursday.
James D. Allen, 30, of Washington, Indiana, faces 18 felony counts: two of causing death while driving while intoxicated on a controlled substance, seven counts of causing serious injury while driving while intoxicated on a controlled substance, and nine counts of criminal recklessness while driving aggressively.
Allen tested positive for marijuana use during a post-crash blood test, a probable cause affidavit said.
He told investigators that he smoked marijuana daily, including about 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 24, the day of the crash, because he was having trouble falling asleep. Investigators said he denied using any drugs between the time he awoke and the crash, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.
The van blew a tire and overturned on Interstate 69. Two women, 29-year-old Christela Georges and 60-year-old Gena Moise, died from their injuries. Many of the van's passengers were Haitian refugees who live in the Washington area some 30 miles northeast of the crash site. The van was headed to a factory in Evansville, about 20 miles to the southwest.
Gibson County Prosecutor Robert Krieg also charged Allen with a misdemeanor count of operating a commercial vehicle without a valid license and three traffic infractions: speeding, following too closely and unsafe lane movement.
The 16-passenger van was loaded with 24 people at the time, and officials have said its worn tires and the weight of the vehicle contributed to the crash.
Passenger Ernst Auguste has told the Courier & Press that he and other passengers had screamed at Allen to slow down before the crash.
Georges was 24 weeks pregnant, and before she died the day after the crash, hospital staff delivered her baby. The infant remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Allen's home phone rang busy Thursday afternoon and he could not be reached for comment regarding the charges. Online court records did not list an attorney who could comment on his behalf.