The at-fault driver in a fatal fiery crash on Interstate 70 in January will not be charged, according to state documents obtained this week by The Frederick News-Post.

Shawn Darin Gill, 46, of Gaithersburg, was driving west on I-70 at about 9 a.m. Jan. 25 when his 2012 Kenworth dump truck struck a 2011 Nissan Rogue stopped at the Interstate 270 interchange, according to police. While a Maryland State Police crash reconstruction report indicated Gill’s distracted driving was a leading cause of the crash, prosecutors declined to pursue charges in a letter sent to the lead investigator July 24.

“We are unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Gill was grossly negligent in the operation of his motor vehicle,” Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Moore wrote in the letter. “Therefore, it is my opinion that no criminal or traffic charges are warranted.”

The driver of the Nissan, 46-year-old Jacob “Jake” Jackson, was killed when the Nissan was pushed forward into the rear of a second dump truck stopped in front of him, causing the Nissan to “instantly burst into flames,” according to a report obtained Thursday through a Maryland Public Information Act Request.

Gill waived his rights and was dictating a statement to Trooper Robert Hook at the Frederick Memorial Hospital after the crash when a nurse walked in to give Gill some medication for his pain, the report states.

“I heard [Gill] tell the nurse that he was on the phone with his wife when the accident occurred and he was sure [his wife] heard the entire accident over the phone,” Hook’s report reads in part.

An examination of Gill’s cellphone history later determined that Gill placed a call that lasted just under two minutes at about 9:04 a.m., the report states. Recordings of 911 calls obtained in a previous request by The Frederick News-Post in January indicate the first calls reporting the crash were made at 9:07 a.m.

Police also examined a video of the crash taken from a tractor-trailer behind Gill’s truck to determine that Gill’s truck hit the brakes less than a second before striking the Nissan.

Based on the video, investigators estimated Gill had 10 seconds and 880 feet of roadway in order to react to the stopped vehicles ahead of him, but failed to do so, according to the conclusion of the report.

“[Gill’s] driving history (captured on video) indicates that he [was] driving distracted,” the report reads in part. “Vehicle one is solely responsible for the collision with the causation being [Gill] not giving his full time and attention to the roadway.”

In explaining the decision not to pursue charges against Gill, Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith drew a distinction between proving gross negligence versus ordinary negligence.

“We need to prove a grossly negligent situation in order to charge someone with a crime, which we did not believe we would be able to do in this case,” Smith said. “There were some other factors that day, for example, there was apparently a pre-collision defect in the brakes on [Gill’s] truck … that was probably the biggest factor.”

Gill said he tried to downshift and “stood up on brakes” when he noticed the traffic stopped in front of him, according to the statement Trooper Hook took down on Gill’s behalf at the hospital following the crash. In spite of this, Gill said the brakes “went to [the] floor,” according to the rest of his statement.

Gill also told at least one other witness at the scene that his brakes failed during the crash, according to the report. Erin L. Campbell-Weaver, a registered nurse, told police she spoke with Gill briefly after witnessing the crash and exiting her vehicle to provide medical assistance to any victims.

“I asked him what happened, and he said, ‘I don’t know ... I tried to stop and the truck wouldn’t stop,’” Campbell-Weaver wrote of her conversation with Gill immediately after witnesses and police pulled him from his truck. “He then said, ‘I kept slamming on the brakes, and the truck wouldn’t stop,’ he kept repeating to me.”

An examination of Gill’s truck revealed that one of the vehicle’s brakes was out of alignment at the time of the crash, according to state police’s conclusion.

In addition to the brakes, Gill also told police he was using a hands-free device connected to his phone to talk with his wife, Smith said. While using a cellphone while driving is a primary offense, no offense can be charged if a hands-free device is used, Smith said.

Gill’s cellphone was destroyed by the fire that engulfed both his truck and several other vehicles involved in the crash, according to Hook’s report.

Gill did not return multiple calls to either his cellphone or a home number seeking comment for this story.

While no criminal charges were filed, “that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some degree of negligence by one or more people in this situation,” Smith said.

“But that’s for the civil courts to decide,” Smith added.

Peter Jackson, Jacob Jackson’s brother, declined to comment when reached by The Frederick News-Post by telephone Friday afternoon.

Another factor of the crash was the presence of state troopers and U.S. Capitol Police escorting a motorcade of U.S. Senate Democrats to a retreat in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Jackson and the trucks in front of him were stopped at the time of the crash to allow the motorcade to safely merge from northbound I-270.

When Gill’s truck struck Jackson’s Nissan, the smaller vehicle slammed into the rear of a 2002 Mack dump truck driven by Mark James Tew, which was in turn pushed into the rear of 2006 Peterbilt dump truck driven by Richard Edward Alder, according to the analysis of the crash.

Both the Nissan and Gill’s truck continued across several lanes of traffic to end up on the opposite shoulder facing the I-270 interchange. Meanwhile, the gas tank of Tew’s truck ruptured, catching fire and eventually burning part of Alder’s truck, the report states.

While Tew and Alder were able to free themselves from their trucks and Gill was pulled from his truck by witnesses, several attempts by witnesses and capitol police to free Jackson failed, the report states.

While witnesses described hearing Jackson moan after approaching his vehicle following the crash, he appeared to be unconscious and all attempts to free him from the heavily damaged and rapidly burning Nissan were unsuccessful, the report states.

Both Tew and Alder blamed the crash in large part on the motorcade. Tew in particular was described as “extremely upset” when Trooper Hook took his statement at the hospital after the crash.

“The police that shut the road down caused this accident,” Tew reportedly told Hook, adding in a written statement later that the crash would not have happened “if traffic would have been stopped properly by the cops.”

Other witnesses agreed. Dale Thomas Moran, who saw the crash in his rearview mirror and tried unsuccessfully to rescue Jackson from the wreck, also placed some blame on the motorcade.

“The way they shut down [the] roadway with rolling stops seemed inappropriate,” Moran wrote in his witness statement under a section asking if he believed the crash could have been avoided. “[It] caused a lot of people to slam brakes.”

In their conclusion, Maryland State Police investigators determined that, while the motorcade was “a contributing factor, it was not the cause of the collision as at least three other vehicles were able to control their speed and come to a complete stop,” after the motorcade blocked I-70.

State police also noted that Alder radioed back a warning over a CB channel to the trucks behind him warning them about the roadblock in the final moments before the crash.

None of the capital police who provided statements to state police filled out the section asking if the crash could have been avoided, and a U.S. Capitol Police supervisor — identified only as Sgt. McCullough in the report — who was interviewed by a state police investigator after the crash, argued that the roadblock was “normal operating procedure,” used by police to secure such motorcades.

Summing up the report, Smith said prosecutors ultimately sided with the state police’s conclusions regarding what led to the crash. That said, he stood by his office’s stance that insufficient evidence exists to pursue charges of any kind following what he called “a terribly tragic fatality.”

“To some degree, it was a perfect storm as to what happened that day,” Smith said.

Follow Jeremy Arias on Twitter: @Jarias_Prime.

Jeremy Arias is the Frederick city and government reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(30) comments

Comment deleted.
DickD

Whenever you are going to interfere with traffic, you should have a permit. They didn't, so they are at least partially to blame, but the dump truck driver, who was negligent in his driving is the real culprit.

powercell2016

Just have to vent here, because i am so sick and tired of seeing so many HUGE Dump Trucks flying around the Frederick area at outrageous speeds! How many accidents and fatalities have we seen that involved Dump Trucks? The idiot DT drivers think they are driving 3,000lb sports cars or somethings. In this article the driver stated that he hit the breaks and they went all the way to the floor. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF INTERTIA YOU IDIOT? You're in a 30,000 Ton vehicle not a 3,000lb sportscars. You're driving a sledgehammer. Thats exactly why YOU need to slow down, and pay attention. In the article they state why they didnt charge him "We need to prove a grossly negligent situation in order to charge someone with a crime, which we did not believe we would be able to do in this case". REALLY? the GROSS NEGLIGENCE is that he was operating such a large and dangerous vehicle in a distracted manor (on his cell phone) PERIOD. SHDM!

DickD

Exactly right, Power![thumbup][thumbup]

KellyAlzan

I clearly recall in drivers ed being taught that large trucks can not stop on a dime. The motorcade cops were foolish and made an ignorant mistake. Society is so accustomed to these smart phone apps where you push a button and have instant results, and it does not work like that when heavy trucks are involved. You can not just step out on an interstate and halt traffic with NO warning. Society is so used to simply pushing a button on a smart phone and getting instant results, no one knows how to use their brain anymore.

Jackjaw1984

There were already two truck ahead of it that had stopped. And the report clearly states that there was plenty of time and space for the truck to have stopped if the driver had been paying attention to the road. Drivers fault....lay down Kelly, your wrong.

Comment deleted.
KellyAlzan

At first I was annoyed by this post. But after reading it a second time - you're quite right. Not so much democrats per say, but at the end of the day - it's OUR government that caused the death of this man

DickD

Nothing is said about insurance here, but it is critical too. In Maryland, the minimum is $15,000 for property and $30,000 for medical. Neither is nearly high enough. My personal desire would be to see at least $100,000 and $1 million. Almost any decent car costs $30,000 or more, some going over $100,000. Maryland requires insurance and if you cannot get it from an insurance company, you go to Maryland Auto Insurance Fund (MAIF). You can buy as much as you like there, but again you only need to take the minimum, which most take.

Anyone being severely injured or killed can run costs way up, we need much better bodily injury insurance.

For anyone saying it could drive poor drivers out of insurance, good! We don't want them driving. For instance, a man with two negligent driving accidents in the last two years has an accident, has the minimum insurance, damage to the other vehicle exceeds $16,000 and that does not include diminished value, which can run up to $5,000 on a new car. Any car that is badly damaged cannot be certified by car dealerships, hence the diminished value.

Whatever you do, make sure you have uninsured and under insured motorists insurance. It will protect you from those that do not have the insurance or insufficient insurance. Also, never sign an agreement for "all damages" If any insurance company offers money for bodily injury in return for signing such an agreement, refuse as they will then keep your insurance company from collecting or suing the faulty driver for damages beyond the limits of their insurance.

Why can't our liberal Senators make sure State car insurance is sufficient?

Jackjaw1984

The fact that Capital Police are stopping traffic on I-70 in Frederick is a problem, but for argument sake what if it was a traffic crash or traffic jam that brought I-70 to a stand still. Is it not the driver's responsible to leave enough space for emergency stopping. The answer is yes. That dump truck had more than enough room to stop according to the report and the video of the truck behind it. The whole "my brakes didn't work" excuse...don't buy it...THAT'S WHAT THEY ALL SAY. The FNP stated that one brake was out of "alignment" (first off, its not out of alignment its out of "adjustment"), so what. He had 9 other working brakes and if its not inoperative and only out of adjustment that means the break is still working at a reduced efficiency. He was on the phone, Bluetooth or not, he was distracted. Can they prove gross negligence, probably not, but this crash definitely warrants at least some traffic tickets. MSP can certainly write the dump truck driver payable traffic tickets which takes the case out of the hand of the States Attorney.

brl17shots

It's a dump truck. No further evidence is needed to determine gross negligence. Anyone who travels 194, 75, 355, 31 or any other road near quarries knows how reckless these people drive. Constantly over the line, taking turns too fast with heavy loads and flipping, and now most recently with those abnoxious LED lights that impair oncoming drivers. And I know what the response to my comment will be: Johnny Cochran is to OJ like Kelly Alzan is to truckers.

KellyAlzan

Ignorant post. We can say the same thing about 4-wheelers (cars). Luckily, the law relies on facts.

KellyAlzan

Sorry, I don't speed. And I use th Blu tooth.

This news story isn't about me. Or you. By the way.

clarkmaryjean

Wrong person. I tried to delete my comment 3 times by reporting it since there is no delete button. Sorry you are not the person I'm referring to blowing past me while on cell phone at over 90 mph. It is another person with same initials and has her name on back of her car as she is a MD politician. I wouldn't have known her from Adam had her name not been all over the car. This is a very sad story and I hope there is justice in the civil courts. I see people distracted on cell phones all the time. I also know that because someone has hands free doesn't mean they always use it. The burden of proof is tough though. Sorry for the incorrect post and hope someone will delete it.

bosco

It would be easier to count the dump truck drivers who are obeying traffic laws and driving in a safe manner.

KellyAlzan

A life would not have been lost had traffic not been halted in the manner it was. period.

So a driver's phone was in use.....in use via hands free. No different than conversing with a passenger.

stevemckay

I totally agree. They halted traffic over the peak of the hill and on a curb. IF they had to really halt traffic - and I think that's a crock - then it should have been done in a more orderly fashion with more coordination. Rather than roaring into the intersection and demanding 70+ mph traffic to stop on a dime, they should have had units from the east on 70 bring traffic to a slow and stop with more warning. Security for that motorcade caused the accident as far as I'm concerned. The fact that it was for a bunch of Congressmen to attend a weekend retreat makes all the more galling.

KellyAlzan

Anytime, traffic is knowingly to be stopped - there are always warning devices placed in advance. "Be prepared to stop" "flaggers ahead"

Since this accident, I have driven this portion of road with the mindset of analyzing the sight distance. The sight distance is LIMITED. Oh, and I used the wrong word, it's not a "road", it's a freakin INTERSTATE! Most loaded multi axle trucks weigh around 69,000 pounds. The driver is quoted as saying "the truck wouldn't stop". In this case, that statement has more than one meaning; driving a loaded truck at 65 / 70 mph, with traffic coming not to a slow stop, but a sudden stop, with NO warning, on a freakin INTERSTATE highway - naturally WILL NOT STOP in the blink of an eye. Not gonna happen.

stevemckay

[thumbup]

sac1233

I agree 1,000,000%!!

stevemckay

"Curb" should have been "curve"

DickD

Yes, Kelly, but even if you are talking to a passenger, it is distraction. You are still liable and you should be prosecuted for not paying attention to your driving.

CDReid

Dick, I believe you'd be hard pressed to find a judge willing to find someone guilty of distracted driving for talking with a passenger. And you know that.

KellyAlzan

Not so sure about Dick anymore. Did you see the volume he wrote about insurance? Where on earth did that come from!

DickD

True, it probably couldn't be proven anyways.

DickD

Kelly, you don't think there will be some liability and civil suits? This is just the beginning and if you don't have the right insurance, you can lose all that you own.

KellyAlzan

Dick, we live in a litigious society. So, liability and civil suits is always a possibility, it goes without saying.

Not all families are sue happy. I have family members that the last thing they would do is sue. I know of others where if they lost a loved one - they would never think to sue.

As far as insurance, and losing all you own, not so sure about losing all you own. There is no law stating you must hire an attorney; they will drain you. Most people are living paycheck to paycheck, and own homes with little to no equity. So, its unlikely, even with a judgement in the plaintiff's favor, that a dime would ever be paid out.

I clearly recall in drivers ed being taught that large trucks can not stop on a dime. The motorcade cops were foolish and made an ignorant mistake. Society is so so accustomed to these smart phone apps where you push a button and have instant results, and it does not work like that when heavy trucks are involved. You can not just step out on an interstate and halt traffic with NO warning. We need peace and mind to know that this will never happen again. That's what we need.

DickD

Kelly, I can't believe you are so ignorant about insurance and responsibility of driving, Your drivers license is a privilege; not a right. It can be taken from you and if you are driving negligent it should be taken and you should be sued, whether you like it or not.

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