The owner and driver of a dump truck involved in an accident last November that killed two high school classmates have been indicted on manslaughter charges by a Prince George's County grand jury.
The sealed indictments were returned on Monday, almost a year after the dump truck hauling a load of hot asphalt rolled backward at the summit of Good Luck Road and Kenilworth Avenue in Riverdale and smashed into a Toyota carrying three students from Pallotti High School.
Two passengers, Gloria Graham and Jeanine Everhart, New Carrollton neighbors who were 17-year-old seniors at Pallotti, were killed. Lisa Beavers, the driver, was critically injured.
The accident touched off a debate about the safety of trucks on Maryland roads after the initial police investigation found that the vehicle, owned by Paine LeCount Bowman, had not had a required annual safety inspection in three years. A subsequent inspection of the truck by Maryland state police found numerous safety defects, including emergency and air brakes that inspectors said were inoperable.
Law enforcement officers from Prince George's and the District served the 24-count indictment Monday night on the driver, Arthur E. Hicks. Investigators found Hicks in a Washington junk yard as they were chasing Bowman from Bowman's small trucking company near First Street and Florida Avenue in Northeast Washington, police said.
Hicks was in custody last night at the D.C. Jail, where he is being held as a fugitive from justice. Hicks has waived extradition, officials said. Bowman, 37, of Silver Spring was still at large.
Several weeks after the accident, the injured teen-ager, Beavers, testified before a state House of Delegates committee that was considering legislation to require all trucks registered in Maryland to undergo annual safety inspections. The bill failed in committee, but then-Secretary of Transportation William K. Hellmann proposed spending an additional $2.5 million a year to increase the state's random truck inspection program.
State's Attorney Alex Williams, who announced the indictments at a news conference yesterday, declined to give specifics about the investigation that led to manslaughter charges. "We don't try cases in the press," Williams said.
The investigation into the case took almost 12 months. Williams said the delay was partly because of the complexity of evidence needed to bring manslaughter charges against both Bowman and Hicks. To prove a case of vehicular manslaughter, prosecutors would have to prove that the owner and driver were grossly negligent in operating the truck and that both men knew of the state of disrepair of the truck.
As part of the evidence, investigators had been trying to find out whether the truck involved in the accident was pieced together from various trucks that had been sold to junk yards. Investigators also were trying to determine whether Bowman had been operating a small-scale truck hauling business, B&B Enterprises at 55 Decatur St. NE, with vehicles constructed of parts from stolen or junked trucks.
Bowman previously had been indicted this year on a six-year-old charge of stealing a $23,000 Diamond Reo dump truck. In that case, police said that Bowman had placed the stolen vehicle's rear end on the cab of another truck. Bowman was free on personal recognizance in that case.
In this case, if convicted, Bowman faces up to 20 years in prison and a $3,000 fine. Hicks faces up to 11 years in prison and a $5,200 fine if he is convicted.
Bowman and Hicks each were charged with two counts of manslaughter by motor vehicle, and Bowman was charged with two additional counts of common law manslaughter. Both men also face several traffic charges, including one count accusing Bowman of allowing Hicks to drive a truck "constructed as to endanger the users of a highway."