Truck driver killed in Gwinnett shopping center crash



GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Gwinnett County authorities have identified the truck driver who died after crashing into a shopping center Wednesday morning.

The driver has been identified as 66-year-old Donald Samples. He is a resident of Snellville.

News Chopper 2 footage shows the truck crashed into the front of O Wings restaurant and The Hair Parlor on Scenic Highway near Webb Gin House Road. The accident happened shortly after 10 a.m.

Police said Samples died at the scene as a result of the injuries sustained in the collision. It is unknown if he suffered a medical condition that contributed to the accident. Police said alcohol and drugs do not appear to be contributing causes at this time.

Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh said the truck narrowly avoided Global Karate Studio, which was holding a summer camp with 22 children at the time of the crash. All children have been safely evacuated from the business, which is two doors down from where the truck crashed.

Karate instructor Cody Davis told Kavanaugh he ran to help the driver, but it was too late, so he returned to the karate studio to evacuate the children.

"If he would have hit is, it would have been horrible. We had all of our kids in the same location," Davis said.

"All you can think about is the kids, keep the kids safe. The second thing I was thinking of is the driver OK. Is there anybody  else in those buildings?" fellow instructor Vince Davis said.

Vince Davis said his brother Cody tried to help the driver but it was too late.

"They peeked over a wall and he just wasn't moving," Vince Davis told Kavanaugh.

The truck plowed into The Hair Parlor, but owner Arielle Thompson said she just happened to have the day off.

"I had afternoon appointments and my husband was off today so I knew I had a little time to just spend with the family," Thompson told Kavanaugh.

Thompson believes the decision likely saved her life.

Bruce Fowler said he saw the truck moments before the crash.

"I was following him northbound on 124. His driving became erratic and he sped up, went to the right. Last I saw, he jumped the median and came into the strip mall," Fowler said.

There were no other reports of injuries, police said.

The truck belongs to Werner Enterprises. The Nebraska-based freight shipping company has a fleet of more than 8,000 trucks and 10,000 drivers.

Kavanaugh pulled federal safety records for Werner and found the fleet has been involved in 926 crashes in the past 24 months, 23 of those were fatalities.

Records also indicated Werner has been cited 92 times for drivers not having appropriate medical certificates.

A spokesman emailed Kavanaugh Wednesday afternoon.

"We are saddened by the loss of life of our driver, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. We are thankful that no one else was injured in the accident. From the moment the accident happened, we have been fully cooperating with the local authorities in their investigation, and we will continue to do so," the email said.

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