Truck driver says he blacked out before fatal tour bus wreck

AP News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2015 5:05 PM
Truck driver says he blacked out before fatal tour bus wreck

A tractor-trailer driver says a medical condition caused him to black out before a crash in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains that killed two Italian tourists aboard a charter bus and its driver.

Franklin Wyatt said he hasn't operated a tractor-trailer since the June 3 wreck and might never get behind the wheel of a semi again. He has been sued by one of the surviving bus passengers, and state police are still investigating.

A veteran truck driver with more than 35 years of experience, Wyatt, 56, of Macomb, Oklahoma, said he has nightmares about the crash.

"It is real difficult, and it's a lot to deal with," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "When you see people on the side of the road covered up with blankets, you know that ain't good. You wake up in the middle of the night and that's what you see."

The crash occurred on Interstate 380 in Coolbaugh Township when Wyatt's truck crossed a wide, grassy median and went into the path of a charter bus taking Italian tourists to Niagara Falls. Killed were Marco Fornasetti, a 29-year-old Italian pharmacist on his honeymoon; another Italian citizen, 69-year-old Rino Guerra; and the bus driver, Alfredo Telemaco, 54, of New York City.

Wyatt said he'd left a weigh station 10 or 15 minutes earlier. He said he remembers nothing of the moments leading up to the crash or of the crash itself.

"I remember leaving, getting back on the highway, going down the highway and that was it," he said.

Wyatt suffered broken ribs.

According to a police accident investigation report, Wyatt told troopers that he'd run out of his blood pressure and diabetes medications. But Wyatt told AP that is incorrect: He said he had taken both medications that day. The reason for the discrepancy wasn't immediately clear.

He said he learned from his doctors after the fact that one of his arteries was 90 percent blocked, and that caused him to pass out and lose control of his rig. He said a stent was inserted in August.

"Doctors are saying it was caused by my artery issue in my heart," he said.

State police accident reconstruction experts are still working the case, and have not yet submitted their findings to prosecutors in Monroe County.

One of the bus passengers, Ivan Galietti, who was working as the tour guide, filed a federal lawsuit against Wyatt as well as the trucking company for which he was driving, alleging negligence. Galietti was seriously injured, breaking multiple bones and tearing his femoral artery.

Galietti's attorney, William Anzalone, said he hopes to depose Wyatt early next year, adding his investigation is focused partly on Wyatt's medical history and whether he had been driving an excessive number of hours.

Wyatt, an owner-operator, was driving as a contractor for Greatwide Dedicated Transport of Dallas. A company spokeswoman said Wyatt had been "carefully screened" and had a valid medical certificate allowing him to drive commercially, and that testing did not show any drugs or alcohol in his system.

"Additionally, review of Mr. Wyatt's logs confirms there is no evidence that he had been driving an excessive number of hours in violation of federal regulations at the time of the accident," Amanda Pelfrey, a spokeswoman for Cardinal Logistics, Greatwide's parent company, said via email.

An Associated Press review of Wyatt's driving record turned up only two minor infractions: a 2012 speeding offense in Oklahoma and a 1997 incident in Oregon involving his tires.

Since the crash, Wyatt, who is married with adult children, said he has been working his farm and doing odd jobs to help make ends meet. He said he won't even drive his pickup truck unless it's absolutely necessary.

"It just makes me so nervous, because of fear of it happening again," he said.