The death toll has risen again in a tragic eastern Massachusetts auto auction crash. A fifth victim succumbed to his injuries on Saturday, more than a week after the incident at the Lynnway Auto Auction in Billerica on May 3. Two victims died at the scene and another at a local hospital shortly after the crash. Nine others were hospitalized at the time, and one of those died earlier in the week.
Accounts confirm that the out-of-control vehicle, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, sped through the inside area of the auction, crossing up to eight lanes of people. After striking several of them, it crashed into a wall of the building. Photos show the vehicle halfway through the wall.
Every initial news report covered this event as if it was some unpredictable calamity with no human action involved. In fact, many referred only to “the vehicle” that struck the victims, making little or no mention of a driver—or the fact that the crash took place in a confined space with dozens if not hundreds of vehicles in motion within inches to a few feet of several hundred prospective buyers, with little or no precautions to make sure something like this couldn’t happen.
We deal with car crashes and their aftermath every day. That’s probably why when the news reports came in we suspected that the story that was being told would not, in the end, turn out to accurately emphasize what happened that day and why.
At least one witness account supports the idea that the driver was in control of the vehicle but appeared to have made at least one all-too-common mistake: He avoided striking other vehicles and risking property (and financial) damage, but in doing so struck vulnerable, unprotected human beings.
Massachusetts State Police issued the expected first-response explanation at the scene: That terrorism was not involved. But in so quickly acting to address people’s irrational fears, they avoided talking about the obvious issue: This so-called accident was the almost inevitable outcome of unsafe practices at the auction house.
We applaud the quick actions of police and firefighters at the scene, as well as the efforts of local medical workers, all of whom may have saved lives. The negligence of those managing this auction, on the other hand, is disturbing. Lynnway was cited in 2014 for serious workplace safety violations and was already being sued by a former worker who was struck by a vehicle driven by an unlicensed driver.
Shortly after the May 3 crash, Billerica’s fire chief was quoted as saying that “it could have been a lot worse,” and we find that statement horrifying rather than reassuring. As details of the accident, the practices of the auction house, and the record of the driver have come out, each new piece of information suggests that this tragedy wasn’t simply an accident waiting to happen but an inevitability that should have been foreseen and avoided.
The driver of the vehicle, a seventy-six-year-old Lynnway employee, had an expired license. He should not have been behind the wheel of any vehicle. The Boston Globe has reported that he had been found at fault in seven previous crashes and that his license had been suspended multiple times in the past.
Lynnway reopened one week after the crash, with new safety procedures and temporary barriers in place while permanent ones are said to be coming. For the victims of this tragedy, these corrective measures come too late to what one dealer familiar with the operation described as formerly being “like a circus.”
Most “accidents” are preventable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that roughly 94 percent of crashes are due to human error. The Department of Transportation and most news organizations no longer refer to vehicle collisions as “accidents” but instead as the crashes they are.
When you’ve been injured or someone close to you has been injured or killed in a crash, turn to Joel H. Schwartz, PC, a firm with extensive experience in the practice of automobile accident law. We understand the many complex issues involved in these cases, and we offer every client a free consultation to discuss his or her situation. Call us today at 1-800-660-2270 or contact us online through the form below to make an appointment.