Archive for Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Trucker on trial in U.S. 56 fatality

Baker University football player was killed in April crash

November 2, 2004


A wreck that killed a Baker University football player earlier this year was either an unavoidable accident or a crime caused by a trucker's cocaine use.

Those were the competing arguments offered Monday at the start of a jury trial for trucker Yan R. McHenry, 47, Dallas, who's charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery as a result of the April 13 wreck on U.S. Highway 56 that killed Shawn M. Trager of Chillicothe, Mo.

"This was not an accident. This was a crime," Assistant Dist. Atty. Angela Wilson said during her opening statement to jurors in Douglas County District Court. "This collision was a direct result of this defendant's decisions, his recklessness, his indifference."

A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper has previously testified that McHenry tested positive for cocaine after the wreck. Wilson said evidence would show McHenry's reaction time was delayed by drug use.

But defense attorney Jim George told jurors evidence would show McHenry simply didn't have time to stop after the vehicle in which Trager was riding made an erratic move and stopped suddenly.

"This case is about an accident and simply an accident," George said.

George told jurors that evidence would show McHenry did not, in fact, have cocaine in his system at the time of the wreck.

The wreck happened near East 1900 Road east of Baldwin when McHenry's tractor-trailer rear-ended a Chevrolet Cavalier in which Trager was riding and pushed it into oncoming traffic.

Evidence presented Monday included photos from the scene and a 45-minute video taken by a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper as he interviewed McHenry and gave him a field sobriety test.

The trooper, Wayde Shea, testified Monday he didn't have any reason to believe McHenry was impaired by drugs or alcohol. But he said his role was to do a standard accident report, and he knew another trooper later would be investigating whether drugs played a role.

Other witnesses Monday included Douglas County Sheriff's officers and Shawn Trager's brother, 21-year-old Aaron Trager, who testified he didn't remember details of the wreck. Andrew Potts, the driver of the vehicle in which the Tragers were riding, can't testify because he's been injured in another fatality wreck, but a prosecutor read jurors his testimony from a preliminary hearing.

The trial resumes today and is expected to last at least three days.

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