The Latest: Driver in deadly Georgia crash pleads guilty

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Posted: Jul 14, 2016 11:59 AM
The Latest: Driver in deadly Georgia crash pleads guilty

PEMBROKE, Ga. (AP) — The Latest on a fiery interstate crash in Georgia that killed five nursing students last year (all times local):

11:a.m.

A Louisiana truck driver charged in a fiery interstate crash in Georgia that killed five nursing students last year has pleaded guilty to nine counts, including five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide.

A judge sentenced 56-year-old John Wayne Johnson on Thursday to five years in prison, plus five on probation. He would have faced up to 93 years if convicted at trial.

The sentence was part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Johnson, of Shreveport, Louisiana, told the judge he was cruising at 70 mph the morning of the crash, with traffic passing him, when he noticed tail lights ahead of him stopping.

"I am getting closer and closer and I am running through my head, 'Why am I not stopping?'"

Superior Court Judge Robert Russell asked Johnson why he didn't stop.

"Sir, that's something I've been wrestling with since that morning," Johnson said.

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10 a.m.

A Louisiana truck driver has pleaded guilty to nine criminal charges stemming from a fiery interstate crash that killed five nursing students last year in southeast Georgia.

Fifty-six-year-old John Wayne Johnson entered the pleas Thursday in a Bryan County courtroom 30 miles west of Savannah.

Johnson of Shreveport, Louisiana, was behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer on Interstate 16 when it smashed into stop-and-go traffic on April 22, 2015. The collision killed five nursing students from nearby Georgia Southern University.

A grand jury indicted Johnson last month on charges including five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide. His employer, Total Transportation of Mississippi, agreed to pay $78 million to settle civil lawsuits after the crash.

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3:35 a.m.

A Louisiana truck driver charged in a fiery interstate crash in Georgia that killed five nursing students last year is set to appear in court.

A hearing for John Wayne Johnson was scheduled for Thursday morning in Bryan County Superior Court. The 56-year-old truck driver from Shreveport, Louisiana, was indicted last month by a grand jury on criminal charges including five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide.

The charges stem from an April 2015 crash on Interstate 16 west of Savannah that killed five nursing students from Georgia Southern University. Johnson was behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer that slammed into stop-and-go traffic stalled by an unrelated wreck.

Prosecutors also had brought charges against Johnson's employer, Total Transportation of Mississippi, but dropped that case in a settlement last week.