The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor 

Trucker in mail truck wreck disputes witness

Driver presents theories on what caused semi to go off the road

 

Valdez Star photo

Did this tire - or other mechanical failure - cause the truck to go off the road two weeks ago?

The driver of the semi-truck that went off the highway two weeks ago while hauling mail to Valdez is disputing an eyewitness account of the incident.

Maurice Holland, age 40, received a negligent driving citation from state troopers after the accident, which stranded the Sept. 16 mail deliveries to Valdez after the trailer he was hauling crashed through a thicket of alder trees along the Richardson Highway near milepost 27.8.

In a long telephonic conversation with the Valdez Star Friday, Holland claimed there could not have been a witness to the accident, blamed the wreck on differing mechanical failures and blasted his employers, the trooper who investigated the accident and said he is facing homelessness and financial ruin because he has not been allowed to work since the incident.

"I was just kind of curious about the article that was printed," he told the Valdez Star Friday. "A lot of that that I was reading, that's not even true."

Holland first claimed there was no witness to the accident.

"I was kind of curious about the Glennallen to Valdez thing," he said, and swore he never saw traffic behind him during the leg of the trip between Glennallen and the scene of the wreck.

"Usually, I check my mirrors quite frequently," he said.

He also said he did not suffer a contusion during the wreck, an assertion that was not made in the article published in the Sept. 23 edition of the Valdez star.

"The truck wouldn't stop, that's what it was," Holland said.

The witness to the accident, Mike McClelland, age 20, was driving the Alaska Dispatch News and the Valdez Star newspapers to Valdez from Wasilla the day the wreck occurred. He said he saw the truck swerve occasionally while on the highway, so he pulled back by dropping his speed on the last leg of the journey. Just before the wreck, he glanced to his right, and when his eyes returned to the highway in front of him, he saw the truck driving off the road. He described the semi and the trailer as hopping up and down through the brush. McClelland stopped and was making his way down to where the truck had stopped after jumping the brush when he saw the driver get out of the truck. Seeing that the driver was not in immediate danger from injuries, McClelland rushed to call for emergency help at the nearby DOT station, and returned to the scene where he witnessed Holland with a large lump on his head.

Holland claimed the bump on his head was minor and McClelland's description was not accurate.

"I'm just trying to figure out what he did see," Holland said, noting that he has been driving the Anchorage to Valdez mail truck route for LC Wilson for over five years.

Holland said the rate of speed quoted in the article he is disputing was probably accurate, 65-70 miles per hour, but he began experiencing trouble after a curve in the road.

"Something happened with my tire, my front right tire," he said, then claimed a tire blowout caused the accident - a fact he did not mention during his first account of the accident.

Holland also disputed the report published by the State Troopers and blasted what he claims was a lack of investigation by the Trooper who arrived at the time of the accident.

"Some of that stuff you said, I'm not agreeing with that," he said, citing information in the article that was gleaned from a press release by the Dept. of Public Safety. Holland was unaware the report was published online and criticized the manner in which he was interviewed by the Troopers.

"The troopers didn't hardly ask me any questions," he said, and lamented the fact he was forced to stand shivering in the rain during the interview, which he said lasted five minutes or less.

He praised Jamie Major, the Valdez police officer who responded to the accident even though the accident occurred outside the jurisdiction of Valdez law enforcement.

"I don't understand," he said "I was getting pulled in four different directions."

He said a mandatory urine drug test he was administered shortly after the wreck was mortifying.

"I had a lady from Valdez tell me I had to take a drug and alcohol test right on the spot," he said.

Holland said the drug tester and a male witness, who stood in as witness for the female tester, went to the DOT station nearby, where he was forced to raise his shirt and drop his pants and turn around twice before providing the urine sample.

"I get humiliated right there for one," he said, still stinging from the incident.

He said the trooper handing him a citation for negligent driving without taking his explanation for the wreck into consideration also stung.

"I don't understand why the troopers would issue me a citation for negligence," he said. "Five minutes after that he gets out of the vehicle, he hands me my information."

He said law enforcement was not interested in investigating the wreck and were not very kind during the ticketing process.

"He said 'you can appeal it,'" Holland said. Later, in the interview, he was more blunt. "I was disrespected by the troopers."

The negligent driving ticket is a big problem for Holland.

Online court records show Holland has three speeding tickets, one for each year since 2013.

Holland said he has not been back to work at LC Wilson since the accident, and he says without an income, he does not have the means to travel to Glennallen to contest the negligent driving ticket. He said he faxed the request to reschedule the original court date to the Glennallen court from a Kinkos in Anchorage.

Online court records say Holland asked to reschedule his original court date of Sept. 22, which was granted and reset for 1:30 p.m., on Oct. 13 in Glennallen.

"I would like to fight it," Holland said. "That is a crazy citation to be writing."

He again criticized the Trooper's on-scene investigation.

"They didn't ask me anything," he said. "Anything."

Later in the interview, he again lamented the allegation that State Troopers did not conduct a thorough interview with him.

"The troopers didn't want to talk to me," he said. "They threw me under the bus."

He also added detail to his recollection of the moments before the wreck.

"The weaving, whatever, I didn't weave," he said and again attempted to plant a seed of doubt against the word of the witness. He also reiterated his claim the front passenger tire had a blow out.

"I don't know how you missed that," he said, describing damage to the front passenger tire that was not visible in photographic evidence.

Holland later backed off the assertion that a full fledged blowout occurred after he was made aware that photos taken at the scene by the Valdez Star shortly after the accident showed the tire off the bead of the rim but with no other visible damage.

There was no shredded rubber or tire parts on the highway where the truck went off the road. Nor were there any skid marks that are typically seen after a vehicle attempts to apply breaks at a high speed.

Without prompting, Holland explained that the truck itself does not weigh a lot and that the load of mail to Valdez that day was light, which explains why there were no skid marks seen on the pavement where he went off the road.

"I felt a shift in the truck," he said. "I felt something really odd."

He noted that he is always on the alert for unusual sounds coming from the truck while on the road, and sometimes keeps the window down some to ensure he will be able to hear anything out of the ordinary.

He also said post office officials are investigating the accident.

"Now I have to deal with the post office and their inspectors," he said. "It's out of control, it's embarrassing and it's crazy."

He said he doubts he will prevail in court.

"All I got is my word," he said. "It's all I have."

Valdez Star photo

The path cut through the stand of alder trees where the truck went off the road.

He also said it was his first and only wreck of this nature, the mail did not get scattered from the trailer and that he did everything right while on the road that morning.

"I saw the whole thing, I lived the whole thing," Holland said. "I did try to correct, the vehicle would not respond. I did my best to keep the rig upright."

He said the whole incident has been a like a nightmare: one minute you are living your happy life, the next you lose everything you have.

"I just feel like I'm getting raped," he said.

Holland faces a maximum fine of $300 plus $50 court costs and points could be assessed against his commercial drivers license.

 

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