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Semitrailer driver facing manslaughter charge related to fiery crash

iStock/JanPietruszka

Manslaughter charges were filed Thursday against a South Dakota semitrailer driver for his role in a fiery crash that left one man dead.

Timothy Alan Mack, 53, of Castlewood, S.D., could spend up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Mack was hauling cattle southbound in a 2000 Peterbilt semitrailer when he rear-ended a 1953 Ford pickup on Interstate 29 about 3 miles north of Thompson on May 23 around 6:35 p.m., according to a press release from the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Court documents said the pickup, which was driven by  Wayne Edward O’Connell, 57, of Shelley, Minn., was driving slower than Mack. An affidavit said Mack didn’t see the pickup before he hit the back of a trailer hitched to O’Connell’s pickup, which caused it to go airborne and explode into flames.

O’Connell was ejected from his vehicle and died at the scene, the Patrol’s release said. His obituary said he served in the Air Force for 18 years, worked as a letter carrier and Postmaster before founding his own handyman company.

Mack was not injured, and all cattle survived the crash.

Court records said Mack did not try to brake for O’Connell’s vehicle and he told investigators debris fell from the back of the pickup and blocked his view before the crash. Physical evidence and witness statements contradict Mack and showed he hadn’t seen the pickup, according to an affidavit for his arrest. A witness told investigators the vehicle was highly visible.

The crash happened on a sunny day in an area “where you could see for miles in both directions,” a court report said. An investigation by the Highway Patrol and North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations found Mack was not properly rested, which is a requirement of operating a commercial vehicle, the affidavit said. He also failed to “use proper attention while driving his vehicle and collided with O’Connell at road speed, causing the death of Wayne O’Connell,” the affidavit said.