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“Inattention” caused multi-fatal crash, state police say

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Driver inattention caused the fiery chain-reaction crash July 19 that killed six people on Route 11 in the town of Antwerp, state police have determined.

Investigator Patrick A. Hathaway said Friday morning that the agency’s report about the accident would be completed later in the day, with the finding of fault directed toward tractor-trailer driver James A. Mills Jr., Myerstown, Pa., for his inattention. No charges have been filed against Mr. Mills, the investigator said, but he added that the next step will be consultation with the Jefferson County district attorney’s office for determination of appropriate charges.

The southbound rig driven by Mr. Mills, 45, carrying a full load of yogurt, went into a skid on freshly placed pavement just south of Fox Ranch Road, and crashed into a vehicle that was stopped in a line of traffic being delayed for the repaving project. A succession of rear-end collisions followed, with a car and a state Department of Transportation pickup becoming engulfed in flames.

Trapped and killed in the car were Laurie A. Dana, 42, North Lawrence; her daughters, Caitlyn O., 14, and Lauryn E., 11; their grandmother, Janet P. Dana, 69, and Shannon M. Planty, 14, a friend of Caitlyn’s. The driver of the car hit by the tractor-trailer, Maryann D. Gregory, 59, Dickinson Center, died later that day in E.J. Noble Hospital, Gouverneur.

The lone occupant of the DOT truck, Lewis L. Lottie Jr., 54, who was initially in critical condition, was listed Friday in good condition at Upstate Medical University, Syracuse.

There has been criticism that warning signs placed in the work zone by the state’s contractor, Barrett Paving Materials Inc., Watertown, were inadequate. Five days after the crash, Mr. Hathaway said the state Department of Transportation had inspected placement of warning signs before the crash occurred and had determined that “they conformed to DOT standards.”

The tractor-trailer is owned by MBM Customized Foodservice Distribution, based in Rocky Mount, N.C. A spokesman for the company did not return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon.

Trucks operated by the company have been involved in 75 accidents over the past two years, including one crash that killed one person and 23 crashes that resulted in at least one injury, according to data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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