UPDATE: A judge dismissed the charges against Small, saying his actions were negligent but not criminal and calling the crash an accident.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Prosecutors in Boone County formally charged a Michigan man Tuesday in connection with a fiery crash on I-65 that killed three people.
Matthew Lewis Small, 34, of Grandville, Michigan faces three counts of reckless homicide after his semi-tractor trailer struck slow moving traffic on I-65 in Boone County on Sunday.
Mariah Tomey, 21, Hadley Tomey, 1, and Kaylee Kirk, 19, all of Lebanon were killed in the crash. Boone County police said 13 other people were taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital
“First and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with the Tomey and Kirk families as they cope with this tragedy. From a legal standpoint, this matter is still under investigation and we will be working closely with the Boone County Sheriff’s Office and the other responding agencies to ensure that a thorough investigation is completed,” said Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Kent Eastwood.
Court documents show that emergency personnel responded around 11:03 a.m. to several calls of a semi striking multiple vehicles on I-65 at the bottom of the Zionsville exit ramp (mile marker 129).
A white 2019 Freightliner semi-tractor driven by Small had another passenger vehicle pinned against the guardrail, both of which erupted in flames shortly after police arrived.
In statements conducted by police, Small stated he was on his way to Minnesota from West Virginia, and had stopped in Richmond, Indiana Saturday evening, resuming travel at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Small said he did not have his cruise control on, and he remembered having clear driving lanes around him at the 129 mile marker near the exit.
He then told police he took a drink of his coffee while talking to his wife on the headset connected to his cell phone and was setting the cup back down when all of a sudden he noticed a line of traffic ahead of him.
Small said he could not stop because of the heavy weight in his truck and pulled to the side of the road as fast as he could.
According to his statement, Small said he blacked out and the next thing he remembers were people beating on his door asking for his fire extinguisher and telling him to get out of the truck.
Small said everything happened so quick and is a blur, and did not remember striking other cars, but remembered knowing that he needed to get over to the emergency berm.
Court documents also included information from an uninjured male witness in a vehicle involved in the crash.
The witness said he was approaching the 865 exit as he saw traffic was slowing to a stop.
He then noticed a semi-tractor coming from behind and appeared to not be stopping or slowing down.
The witness said he pumped the brakes for 3-5 seconds in order to hopefully alert the semi driver.
He told police he attempted to move to another lane and was struck by the semi, which clipped his rear bumper.
Court documents also showed that video from a nearby business showed the vehicle of the witness stopped for about 15 seconds prior to being hit by the semi.
Small was booked into the Boone County Jail on Sunday.
According to State of Indiana court records, Small was cited on July 12, 2019 in Carmel, Indiana for “Truck Following Too Close” and paid a fine after an October 2019 judgement.
“Once the investigation is final, this office will review the evidence to determine what if any additional action should be taken. Given the status of the investigation and that this matter is now pending in a criminal court, there will be no further comment from the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office,” said Eastwood.
Small’s employer VL Trucking, Inc., provided the following statement to FOX59:
“Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this tragic crash. This isolated incident is certainly not reflective of the quality, dedication, and responsibility that our drivers nationwide commit to every day. Our administration is fully cooperating and actively communicating with authorities to help complete their investigation. We encourage witnesses with any additional information to contact local police department.”
This story will be updated as more details become available.