No felony charges to be filed in double-fatality on I-90

Was going less than 13 mph when semi was clipped and operators struck
Thursday, February 11, 2021
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The driver responsible for the deaths of two tow truck workers at an I-90 accident scene last fall will face one misdemeanor charge due to mitigating factors revealed in the investigation.

The following statement was released today by the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office:

“On this date, the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office filed charging documents against Carlyn Jessop, the driver of the pickup who struck the two tow truck operators outside of Columbus, Montana on October 25, 2020.  After an extensive investigation into the incident by the Montana Highway Patrol, Carlyn Jessop has been charged with Careless Driving, involving death or serious bodily injury.  An arraignment date has not yet been set in this matter.”

Carlyn Samuel Jessop, a 20-year-old from Utah, was formally charged with careless driving involving a death, which is a misdemeanor today in Stillwater County Justice Court.

Jessop is accused of striking and killing Hanser’s tow truck operators William Casie Allen of Reed Point and Nicholas Ryan Visser of Billings on Oct. 25, 2020. The men were working an accident scene from earlier in the day.

The charge alleges that Jessop “failed to operate or drive a vehicle on a public highway in a careful and prudent manner that does not unduly or unreasonably danger the life, limb, property or other rights of a person entitled to the use of the highway, thereby resulting in death or serious bodily injury of another person,” according to the charging document filed by Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde.

Specifically, Jessop is accused of failing to driving a 2016 Dodge Ram truck while pulling a gooseneck trailer on I-90 in a careful and prudent manner during poor weather and road conditions, causing his truck to rear-end a semi, jack-knife and strike and kill Allen and Visser.

FOUR FACTORS

Following an extensive investigation conducted by the Montana Highway Patrol, that agency determined there were four main factors involved in the crash. 

•The first factor was weather — it was snowing, the roads was covered with ice and a slight breeze which when “kicked up” behind the semi, hindered Jessop’s ability to see the “Wrecker Ahead” sign and “properly gauge his distance from the semi and see the crash beyond the semi,” according to the complaint.

•The second factor was road conditions, which were snow-packed and icy. 

•The third factor was Jessop’s “higher rate of speed which was imprudent for the road conditions,” according to the complaint.

•The fourth factor was listed as the “placement of the traffic control cones used to close the passing lane,” according to the complaint.

THE CASE

At approximately 6:20 a.m., MHP Trooper Wyatt Duncan was dispatch to mile marker 413 on I-90 to investigate the crash scene. Upon his arrival, the trooper saw a reflective orange sign that read “Wrecker Ahead,” several extinguished and multiple semi trucks and emergency vehicles.

The trooper noted the “Wrecker Ahead” sign was located at the crest of the hill, approximately 1,200 feet from the scene. At the beginning of the crash scene was a cone that appeared to have been part of a line of cones directing traffic to the driving lane, according to the complaint. That cone was approximately 75 feet before the area of impact. A second cone was found in the median and a third cone was found near the damaged wall.

Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger had been first on the scene following the fatalities and had confirmed that Allen and Visser were deceased.  Cowger also told Trooper Duncan that Jessop and his passenger were in Jessop’s truck. The trooper made sure the that neither the semi driver nor Jessup or his passenger were injured, and informed all three they would be taken to the hospital for blood tests, according to the complaint.

The trooper told Jessop that both Allen and Visser were dead. With Jessop was his underage brother.

Jessop and his brother were escorted to an ambulance by a sheriff’s deputy and were eventually take to the Stillwater Billings Clinic, where they submitted to blood tests. All tests, including the semi driver’s, came back clear.

The investigation showed that Jessop was taking supplies to build a horse barn from Beaver, Utah to Lisbon, N.D., and had left Utah on Oct. 24, 2020, at 5 p.m. and not stopped to sleep, according to the complaint. Jessop’s last stop prior to the crash was to get fuel at the Columbus Town Pump.

The driver of the semi said that he was in front of Jessup on the road and as he approached what would be the fatal accident scene, he saw a “Wrecker Ahead” sign and began to slow down and maneuver his semi as far right as possible without hitting the guardrail, according to the complaint. The complaint notes that the semi trailer was black in color.

As the semi driver was moving right, Jessop’s truck went into the passing lane, after first clipping the rear-end of the semi.

At that moment, Hanser’s rollback wrecker was parked in the passing lane, sitting approximately six inches off the ground. One of the tow truck operators was standing at the back of the rollback and the other was at the front side, working the controls, according to the complaint.

“The defendant was approaching the rear of the semi at too high of a rate of speed for the road conditions and was unable to slow down sufficiently to avoid a collision,” according to the complaint.

Jessop attempted to swerve around the semi to avoid rear-ending it and entered the passing lane, according to the complaint. It was at that point that Jessop saw the crash scene ahead and tried to move as close to the semi as possible, but instead, struck it a second time, pushing it into the guardrail on the right shoulder.

Jessop’s truck began to rotate clockwise, jack-knifing with its gooseneck trailer. The trailer’s momentum caused the pickup to swing to the left, striking Allen, Visser, the rollback wrecker and a crashed Uhaul and the crew had been working on, according to the complaint.

“The electronic data recorder indicated the defendant’s pickup speed had slowed to 13 mph as he struck the semi’s left corner,” according to the complaint.

TRAGEDY TIMES TWO

Both the Visser family and Allen family have been vocal about the state’s MOVE Over laws.

Allen was described a “sweet little soft-spoken” man who was “in love with the great outdoors.” He was also a reserve for the Sweet Grass County Sheriff’s Office.

Visser was a father of five who loved motorcycles and his “huge family,” according to the company. He and his wife, Kendra, had been married for 17 years.