Celadon to pay $18.5M settlement over fatal crash

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Indianapolis-based Celadon Group Inc. has agreed to pay $18.5 million to the families of two men who died in a multiple-vehicle accident involving a Celadon truck driver in northwest Indiana in February 2011.

The settlement was disclosed late last week.

Daniel Van Dyke, 44, and his passenger, Richard Hannah, 47, both of Michigan, were killed when their vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer driven by Celadon employee Earnest Johnson on Interstate 94 near Portage.

Van Dyke stopped his vehicle when a car in front of him lost control on an icy roadway. Johnson, who was hauling 21 tons of crushed marble, crashed into Van Dyke’s vehicle.

In December, a jury in a civil trial found Johnson negligent because he was driving too fast for the winter weather conditions. Investigators determined the truck’s cruise control was set on 65 mph before impact.

Celadon appealed the verdict, contending that Johnson could not have avoided the accident. The trucking company also felt the other drivers contributed to the accident by failing to maintain control of their vehicles.

Celadon, however, dropped the appeal last week and agreed to a settlement with the families. Van Dyke's wife will receive $7.5 million. Hannah's wife, who has two children, will receive $11 million.

Ken Core, vice president of risk management at Celadon, said insurance will pay for all but $1.5 million of the settlement. The payout will not have a material impact on the company’s financial performance.

Core said the company is now training its drivers not to use cruise control during inclement weather.

Celadon shares were down 27 cents Friday morning, to $20.10 each.



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