Prior to the chain reaction crash that killed six people Thursday morning on Route 11 in the town of Antwerp, a state Department of Transportation team inspected and approved traffic warning signs set up for a resurfacing project, according to state police.
They conformed to DOT standards, said Investigator Patrick A. Hathaway, who is overseeing the investigation.
The crash occurred shortly after 9 a.m. when James A. Mills Jr., Myerstown, Pa., driving a tractor-trailer fully loaded with yogurt, didnt see that vehicles had stopped in his lane at the resurfacing project, a short distance south of the intersection with Dickson and Fox Ranch roads, Mr. Hathaway said. Why he was delayed in seeing the stopped traffic remains unexplained.
Driving southwest, Mr. Mills should not have been affected by the suns glare from the east, the investigator said.
The rig went into a skid on the fresh pavement south of Fox Ranch Road before initiating the crash within seconds.
Mr. Hathaway said Monday that he has not yet been given Mr. Millss driving record.
He should have tried to find a way out, said John Snider, director of SAGE Technical Services Truck Driving School, Vestal. His way out should have been in front of him.
Under normal circumstances, the trucker slows down and turns on his flashers to warn traffic behind him, Mr. Snider said. Mr. Mills should have at least tried to use the roads shoulder, Mr. Snider said.
Putting the truck completely off the road into a ditch would have been the truckers least desirable option because once you do that, you have a 50-50 chance of rolling it; then the truckers chances of survival go downhill from there.
Dr. Alexander E. Kuehl, former medical director at E.J. Noble Hospital, Gouverneur, having served on the Maryland Traffic Safety Committee, said he felt a little bit for Mr. Mills because there was no place for the truck to go.
He said he is concerned about the signage based on what he saw of contracted work at routes 37 and 12 recently. The signs he saw, warnings of doubled fines in a construction zone, matched what was visible near Thursdays scene.
Those signs are useless, he said. Nobody slows down.
He asked about the states standards for distances in the placement of signs from construction sites and about the types of signs used.
Michael R. Flick, regional DOT spokesman, said Friday he had been told to answer no questions about the tragedy and to refer inquiries to state police. But when a state police official in Oneida was asked about sign positioning, he said only the DOT can answer that.
Barrett Paving Materials Inc., Watertown, which was doing the paving project, declined to respond to questions, limiting comment to a statement prepared the day of the crash:
Barrett is working cooperatively with DOT and the New York State Police to determine the exact cause of the incident. The factors contributing to the incident will be determined after a thorough investigation.
Barrett Paving places the highest value on the safety of the public and its workers. The companys focus right now is offering condolences for those who lost their lives and support for those who were injured in this tragic incident.
Investigator Hathaway said no charges will be filed until the state police collision reconstruction team and investigators have evaluated the full case and until after the district attorneys office has been consulted.
There is still a lot of work to do, he said.
Mr. Hathaway said blood test results are being awaited to confirm Mr. Mills was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which was the initial determination of a trooper who is a drug recognition expert.
He noted that after the crash, Mr. Mills assisted DOT and Barrett personnel to pull Lewis L. Lottie Jr., 54, out of a fire-engulfed DOT pickup truck. Mr. Lottie remains in Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, where he was listed in serious condition Tuesday afternoon.