Practicing Law With a Passion for the Rights of the Individual

Fatality on Icy I-540
02/05/2009
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

VAN BUREN – The father of an Interstate 540 crash victim filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Crawford County Circuit Court, blaming an Arkansas trucking company for his death.

Hector Pimentel of Fort Smith, whose 19-year-old son, David John Pimentel, was killed in a Jan. 5 accident, sued truck driver Michael Cox and his employer, H.L. Jennings Enterprises Inc. of Scranton.

In court papers, Little Rock attorneys Brian Reddick and Bob Edwards describe how Pimentel got out of his car around 10:15 p.m. on an icy I-540 bridge near Chester as other vehicles were crashing near him.

The suit claims Cox was headed south on I-540 when he began to slide on the bridge. Cox's tractor-trailer plowed through wrecked vehicles and hit a guardrail, causing Pimentel, his friend Elizabeth Morse and two other people standing on the bridge to run, the suit states.

Pimentel "was forced over the rail of the bridge to avoid getting crushed by the tractortrailer," the court papers say. He fell 160 feet to his death.

"A reasonably careful person operating a tractor-trailer in such icy and foggy conditions would be aware of the danger and would have slowed down, especially when approaching a bridge," Edwards said in a statement. "Cox failed to follow the rules of the road, as well as the training he should have received to obtain his commercial driver's license. David Pimentel's death was a result of Cox's negligence."

Pimentel's father is seeking monetary damages.

Jim Robertson, a Little Rock attorney representing the trucking company, wouldn't answer questions about the allegations in the lawsuit.

"We save that for trial," Robertson said.

Two other people were killed on another iced-over I-540 bridge that same night. Just before midnight, Phillip Rothlisberger of Mountainburg and Theron Watson of Fayetteville died as approximately 20 vehicles were involved in 15 crashes on a bridge over Frog Bayou.