BRYAN COUNTY, Ga. — Georgia State Patrol troopers say they plan to check cellphone records and driving habits for the truck driver accused of causing a crash that killed five Georgia Southern nursing students last week.
Channel 2's Aaron Diamant sat down exclusively with GSP Capt. Mark Perry, who says the investigation into the tragic wreck will take months to complete.
Investigators told Diamant they've interviewed the truck driver, survivors and several witnesses, but given scope of the wreck, there is still a lot of sorting out to do.
"Once they get there, that is a crime scene. It is exactly the same as if someone had murdered someone with a weapon, a knife or a gun. It's just a weapon of a motor vehicle," Perry said.
The specialized accident reconstruction team says it could take up to six months to put all the pieces together for a thorough investigation.
"The tractor trailer, it was obvious that he initiated this crash by hitting this vehicle in the rear and setting off a chain reaction of multiple vehicles," Perry said.
Investigators say there was no probable cause at the scene to suspect the truck driver, John Wayne Johnson, of Louisiana, was under the influence. Now, the investigation begins to look into his background.
"They'll check phone records, they'll check the electronic control module on the vehicle, they will get a sense of what that vehicle was doing speed-wise, how he had been driving, his habits," Perry said.
While investigators sort all that out, Diamant's investigation uncovered federal records for the trucking company, Total Transportation of Mississippi, showing over the last two years, company drivers have been slapped with 266 unsafe driving violations. Diamant traveled to Mississippi Friday to question company leaders.
"Please respect our time until we do this. This is more about the victims, I wish y'all would understand that. So respect us, understanding that and give us time to call you back," the company's COO told Diamant.
So far, Diamant has not received a call back. In the meantime, GSP says it plans to crack down on the company's trucks in Georgia.
"Just based on what we know, our motor carriers will absolutely enhance the enforcement on that particular company," Perry told Diamant.
The GBI and Federal Motor Carrier investigators are also involved in the case.
GSP says the truck driver has been interviewed and is cooperating with investigator. Troopers say he won't face any charges until after its investigation is complete.
- Campus, family and friends hold vigil for nursing students killed in wreck
- McKay Pittman's parents describe their daughter as "a true angel"
Megan Richards, the Loganville nursing student who survived the crash, is back home. Her attorney said she had to go back to the hospital this weekend, but was released again Monday. He says she is still sore and in pain.
Georgia Southern University has set up "The School of Nursing Students' Memorial Fund" to honor the five students killed.