Driver charged in fatal crash

Times-Shamrock Writer

A truck driver who state police said failed to take the action needed to avoid a collision in January that resulted in the death of a 27-year-old Marine now faces homicide by vehicle charges.

Arlan E. Taft drove a 2006 International 5900i water truck and collided with Staff Sgt. Andrew Stevens’ Dodge Durango on Route 3004 at the Route 29 intersection in Springville Twp. on Jan. 2.

Staff Sgt. Stevens was a Susquehanna County native who had recently moved to North Carolina with his wife, Katy Stevens.

The crash could have been averted, state police said.

“(Mr. Taft’s) improper gear selection, improper braking application and the lack of any avoidance maneuver resulted in the International striking the Dodge in a rear end collision causing this fatal collision,” according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday by Cpl. Michael Joyce.

Staff Sgt. Stevens’ Dodge was stopped behind two tractor trailers at the intersection facing west while Mr. Taft’s 35-ton truck approached in the same direction.

Mr. Taft, 58, of 45 Tremaine Road, Tioga, told state police he downshifted when he saw the stopped vehicles, knew it wouldn’t be enough, and downshifted again but missed the gear, state police said. He said he pressed on the brakes, but the brakes alone were not going to stop his truck and he slammed into the Dodge, pushing it into the tractor trailers in front.

Both Mr. Taft’s and Staff Sgt. Stevens’ vehicles caught fire. Staff Sgt. Stevens died from multiple traumatic injuries, state police said.
However, a collision reconstruction would reveal discrepancies.

State police found no skid marks on the road that would show Mr. Taft pressed hard on the brakes. The International’s braking system also showed no signs of heavy braking application or damage to the braking system.

State police charged Mr. Taft with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and various vehicle code violations.

“It’s been a very emotional day, like a roller coaster,” said Mrs. Stevens, 27. “I have a lot of mixed emotions because I wish none of it happened.”

The charges are a stepping stone in her grieving process. She feels like a weight had been lifted from her chest, but she still has “10 tons” more there.

“It doesn’t bring my husband back,” Mrs. Stevens said.

The couple grew up in Susquehanna County and started dating the day after Staff Sgt. Stevens came home from Iraq in 2007.

Mr. Taft was released on $10,000 unsecured bail.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.

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