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Exclusive: Owner knew drug history of trucker charged in deadly I-70 crash

Driver faces nine felony charges stemming from fiery crash in Indiana that killed four juveniles

Corey Withrow, 31, of Camden, Ohio, is facing nine felony charges stemming from fatal crash on I-70 in Wayne County, Indiana. Photo: Indiana State Police/Wayne County Jail

The owner of a Camden, Ohio, trucking company told FreightWaves that prior to hiring a truck driver who was involved in a recent deadly crash, he was aware of the driver’s previous drug convictions, but he says he made sure to “observe him” before he headed out with a load.

Corey R. Withrow, 31, of Camden, is out on bail after posting a $35,000 surety bond last Friday, less than 24 hours after his arrest related to the crash, which killed four juveniles on Interstate 70 in Wayne County, Indiana, a day earlier.

Gary Gregg, owner of Barnets Inc., said Withrow worked for Barnets Inc. for nearly a year before the fatal crash and had worked in his shop “years and years ago.” 

“I made sure I was always here whenever he left to observe him,” Gregg told FreightWaves. However, Gregg didn’t indicate whether he had observed Withrow on the day of the fatal crash.

Gregg also owns G & J Kartway, which is the home of the Ohio Valley Karting Association since 1964.

Withrow was hired in 2019, according to Gregg, less than four months after court filings show he received three years of probation for aggravated possession of drugs in Preble County, Ohio. Late Wednesday, Preble County indicated it would hold a hearing July 21 on having Withrow’s probation revoked.

He had been previously sentenced to three years of probation and completed a drug and alcohol diversion program in September 2016 for heroin possession and breaking and entering and burglary in the same county.

In Montgomery County, Ohio, Withrow completed a drug treatment program in lieu of a conviction program for possession of heroin in 2013.

“I don’t know how he’s [Withrow] managed to maintain a CDL having this many problems, but there are enough opportunities within the law to maintain a license,” Wayne County Sheriff Randy Retter told FreightWaves. “I think some people take advantage of those opportunities.”

Fiery crash, killing two teens, two children

Withrow faces nine felony charges stemming from the fiery crash on Interstate 70 that killed the four juveniles, after his preliminary urine test taken a few hours after the crash indicated he tested positive for THC (marijuana), MDMA (ecstasy/Molly) and amphetamines, according to Retter.

Retter said authorities are awaiting toxicology results on blood draws sent to the Indiana State Police lab. Withrow may face more charges depending on the test results and “as the investigation continues.”

“It’s very unfortunate that this happened, and like in many professions, there are a bad few that tend to cast a shadow on all the good truck drivers,” Retter told FreightWaves.  

Withrow’s initial hearing is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on July 23 in Wayne County Superior Court 1, according to Retter. The charges include four counts of reckless homicide; four counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing death; and one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing serious bodily injury.

According to police reports, Withrow, who was driving a 2004 Kenworth, was traveling nearly 20 mph over the speed limit of 55 in a construction zone on eastbound I-70 when he failed to slow and struck the rear of a Chevrolet driven by Aaron Bruce, 34, of Kansas City, Missouri, pushing Bruce’s car into a tractor-trailer in front of him. 

Withrow and Bruce’s vehicles burst into flames upon impact. A passerby was able to pull Bruce from his burning car, but not his four children: Anesa Noel Acosta, 15, Quintin Michael McGowan, 13, Brekkin Riley Bruce, 8, and Trentin Beau Bruce, 6.

Withrow escaped his burning tractor-trailer and was taken to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Aaron Bruce remains in critical condition at Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis after sustaining burns over more than 50% of his body.

About Barnets Inc.

Barnets, which has 39 power units and the same number of drivers, has been in business since June 1980 and hauls general freight and paper products, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) SAFER system.

Prior to the crash, Barnets’ trucks had been inspected 28 times and one truck was placed out of service in a 24-month period, resulting in a nearly 3.6% out-of-service rate. This is lower than the industry’s national average of around 21%, according to FMCSA data. 

Its drivers were inspected 60 times and seven were placed out of service for nearly 12%, which is double the national average out-of-service rate of around 5.5%. Barnets’ trucks were involved in three injury crashes and three towaways over the same 24-month period.

This is a developing story.

Read more articles by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes

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  1. Performance records show this is happening

    FBI agents stalk US Veterans to be set up for a crime like Lie over And over Again until it becomes true . for example Lie then talk about their credentials then Lie some more then talk about wounderful things then blame somebody else.

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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected]