A trucking company owner who rigged one of his vehicles with bad brakes and tried to reinstate insurance after it caused a fiery crash that killed four people was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison.
David Wilcox, 73, was too distraught to talk in Hartford Superior Court and had his lawyer read a statement from him apologizing to the victims and their families and asking for forgiveness for the 2005 crash.
"It was a terrible accident, and I apologize to you all," the statement said. "I never intended for this to happen."
The courtroom was filled with about 40 relatives and friends of the victims and survivors of the 20-vehicle wreck. Many cried during the hearing, and some said the sentence was not nearly severe enough.
Some trapped in burning vehicles
Some of the victims were trapped in their burning vehicles or buried under mounds of dirt, tree trimmings and concrete that spilled from the overturned dump truck. Others were critically injured when the 19 other vehicles, including a commuter bus, slammed into each other in the chaotic chain-reaction crash.
Judge David Gold told Wilcox that he was playing "Russian roulette" with people's lives by having unsafe trucks on the road before sentencing him to the prison time and a subsequent three years of probation on manslaughter, assault and insurance fraud charges.
The sentence was the maximum under a plea bargain agreed to by the judge, prosecutors and Wilcox, who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter and assault charges and no contest to the insurance fraud charges.
A heavy dump truck owned by Wilcox's company, Bloomfield-based American Crushing & Recycling, caused the crash when the driver lost control going down a steep, curvy part of a major four-lane road on Avon Mountain on July 29, 2005. The truck plowed into 19 vehicles stopped at a traffic signal at the bottom of the hill during the morning commute, killing the truck's driver and three people in other vehicles.
Prosecutor Dennis O'Connor said Wilcox, of Windsor, equipped his trucks with bald tires and bad brake parts; performed shoddy and sporadic maintenance; and allowed an inexperienced driver behind the wheel of the dump truck.
O'Connor said Wilcox could not claim ignorance about the truck's condition because he loaded it personally that morning and dispatched the driver, despite being warned about the truck's bad brakes by the previous day's driver.
"Rules apparently don't apply to Mr. Wilcox," O'Connor said.
'No justice that can rectify my mother's death'
Killed in the crash were drivers Barbara Bongiovanni, 54, of Torrington; Maureen Edlund, 60, of Canton; and Paul A. "Chip" Stotler, 42, of New Hartford; and the truck driver, Abdulraheem Naafi, 41, of Hartford.
Tara Edlund, Maureen Edlund's daughter, who is set to marry next month, said she had lost "more than words can describe."
"There is no justice that can rectify my mother's death and the hurt and pain it has caused us," she said in the courtroom.
Wilcox was arrested in 2006 after a yearlong investigation into the crash and entered guilty pleas in March as jury selection was set to begin on the manslaughter and assault charges. He pleaded no contest to insurance fraud because he believes his liability coverage was in effect and wants to keep pursuing the claim to collect money for the crash victims, said his attorney, Ray Hassett.
Wilcox's son, Shaun Wilcox, pleaded guilty in March to tampering with evidence and conspiring to tamper with evidence. David Wilcox's wife, Donna Wilcox, has pleaded no contest to attempted insurance fraud, attempted larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny. The son and wife are scheduled to be sentenced June 30.