- Look at the condition of the tries on the truck.
- Look at the condition of the tires on the trailer.
- What training did the driver receive before he towed the trailer.
- How fast was he going?
- How was the trailer loaded?
- Was the trailer overloaded?
- Did the driver have a CDL?
Fatality a Marine working off ticket
He chose service in lieu of jail time
A Thousand Oaks man killed this week while picking up litter along Highway 126 near Ventura was a Marine reservist doing community service in lieu of jail time for driving without a valid license.
Christopher Williams, 22, joined the Marine Corps nearly four years ago and rose to the rank of corporal, said Capt. Carl B. Redding, a spokesman for the Marines.
Williams enrolled in a delayed enlistment program while still a student at Oak Park High School and headed to boot camp a few months after graduating in 2004, his mother, Susan Williams, said Friday.
He trained as an infantryman and was recently promoted to corporal, his mother said. "He loved the Marines," she said.
Williams has run several marathons and dreamed of working as a personal trainer, his mother said. He was scheduled to begin training next month for deployment to Iraq next year, and he looked forward to taking a job at a gym when he returned, she said.
Williams was killed Thursday while working off a 10-day jail sentence for driving with a revoked or suspended license after similar convictions, court records show. The offenses are misdemeanors.
He was one of five members of a cleanup crew working under Caltrans supervision as part of the Ventura County Probation Agency's work-release program. The program allows people sentenced to short jail terms for minor offenses to do community service instead of jail time.
Williams was the first "court-referred worker" killed on the job in Ventura or Los Angeles counties since the work-release program began at least 20 years ago, Caltrans spokeswoman Jeanne Bonfilio said.
Thursday was Williams' third day on the work-release job, his mother said. His crew was working on the median of westbound Highway 126 near Edwards Ranch Road between Ventura and Santa Paula about 10:40 a.m. when a flatbed truck careened into the median, hitting Williams and two other crew members as well as another vehicle, authorities said.
Williams was pronounced dead at the scene. Felipe Reyes, 29, of Oxnard suffered critical injuries, including a severed leg. He remained in critical but stable condition Friday at Ventura County Medical Center, said hospital spokeswoman Sheila Murphy. Matt Turnquist, 23, of Simi Valley suffered minor injuries, as did the drivers of the truck and of the other vehicle.
Investigators Friday were still trying to determine what caused the truck to swerve. The driver, Steven Higgins, 49, of Ojai, had not been arrested or cited as of Friday.
Williams' mother recalled him as a loving son and loyal friend. "He was just a great son. He always told me he loved me, every single day," she said.
Williams lived with his mother in Thousand Oaks, where they moved after his father, Rick, died three years ago, his mother said. He was an only child.
He liked to eat, and every time he came home, he would announce, "Mom, I'm hungry,'" she said. One of his favorite dishes was his mother's pot roast with mashed potatoes and carrots, which she had planned to make for him Thursday night, she said.
Since 1924, 32 Caltrans employees have been killed on the job in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, but no work-release employees, even though the courts refer several hundred to more than 1,000 people a month to Caltrans to perform community service, Bonfilio said.
Court-referred workers in the two counties save the state up to $5 million a year, she said. They get the same basic training as Caltrans employees, receive safety gear, such as hard hats and vests, and are supervised at all times, she said.
In addition, people in work-release programs work in front of "shadow vehicles" that serve as a buffer between them and oncoming traffic, Bonfilio said.
One such vehicle — a van with a trailer full of tools, such as brooms and rakes — was parked behind the crew that was hit Thursday. The situation was unusual because the truck came from the side, missing the Caltrans van before hitting the crew, Bonfilio said.
"The whole idea of the shadow vehicles is to protect them," she said. "We're devastated by this tragic accident."