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Tractor Trailer Crash Kills 3-Year-Old Boy In McIntosh County, Georgia


NBC news affiliate, WSAV, has reported that a semi truck crash rear-ended a minivan on I-95 in McIntosh County, Georgia killing three-year-old Sean Thornton and injuring five others.

A toddler is dead, 5 other people injured after an accident along Interstate 95.

The van was apparently driving southbound near mile marker 63 in McIntosh County when it was hit from behind by a tractor trailer and run off the road.

A family of 5, Susan and Daniel Thornton and their three children, all from Pittsburgh, were inside at the time of the crash.

It took nearly two hours for Mcintosh and Liberty County firefighters to get them all out.

3 year-old Sean Thornton died in the crash

The other 4 family members were taken to the hospital with various other injuries.

The truck driver, Willie Hill, suffered a broken pelvis and leg.

The accident is still under investigation.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Thornton family, their friends and their community. No family should have to endure such a needless tragedy.

Too many people have been killed by semi truck crashes and trucking accidents.

Nationwide, large trucks (known as tractor trailers, semi trucks, eighteen wheelers, diesel, big rigs, or commercial trucks) make up only about 3% of the vehicles on the road. However, they account for far more traffic fatalities. For example, in Missouri, semi truck crashes make up as much as 15% of traffic deaths. In Illinois, tractor trailer crashes cause more than 10% of traffic deaths.

The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") lists the following as some of the most common causes of big rig accidents:

  • Poor Driver Training

  • Driver Fatigue (Tiredness)

  • Speeding

  • Overloaded Trucks

  • Oversized Trucks

  • Brake Failure

  • Poor Driving Conditions

  • Driver Inexperience

  • Failure To Yield The Right-Of-Way

  • Driving Under The Influence of Alcohol Or Drugs

  • Aggressive, Dangerous Or Reckless Driving

  • Mechanical Failure (Or Improper Maintenance)

  • Defective Parts (Such As Defective Steering Or Brakes)

Truckers and trucking companies must be mindful of each of these trucking accident causes.

Driving an 80,000 tractor trailer covering hundreds of thousands of miles is an awesome responsibility. Truckers and trucking corporations must be vigilant about safety.

Driver fatigue is a particularly dangerous — and completely preventable — cause of trucking accidents. Nearly 15 years ago, the NTSB issued a report warning of truck driver fatigue dangers.

The NTSB found that trucker fatigue was a contributing factor in 30%-40% of all diesel truck accidents. The NTSB found that proper sleep patterns are imperative for truck driver safety. Truckers must get 8 hours of continuous sleep after driving for 10 hours or after being on duty for 15 hours for proper safety.

The NTSB just recently issued a warning that truck drivers should also be screened for a medical condition called sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea denies people the rest they need, and it has been found to be a factor in incident involving every transportation mode, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in letters.

Trucking companies need to quit putting profits over safety. Do they think there is a separate set of rules for them? These companies need to make sure their drivers are properly trained, properly rested and using the highest degree of safety at all times.

Visit our trucking accident web site to learn more about trucking accident safety or trucking accident investigation.

Learn more and become a fan of Langdon & Emison on Facebook.


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  1. Jennifer says:
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    Please pray for the Thornton family. They are members of our parish at St. Teresa of Avila, their children go to school with our children. They are a lovely family… this has truly come as a shock to everyone.

    This accident could have been prevented.

    This could happen to anyone’s family.

    My heart breaks…

  2. Mike says:
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    My prayers go out to the family. I and a couple of other men were the first to the scene, and it is a miracle that 4 of the family came out of this alive. The damage and crushing of the vehicle were beyond description and I could not imagine a more violent or terrifying accident that appeared to be no fault of their own. Please pray for the healing of this family.

  3. David says:
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    May god be with the thornton family and friends. I was one of the men that was first to the scene with mike. A tragic accident. I must say that the gentelmen that were all down in the swamp seconds after the accident were a genuine group of men. I would also like to praise the emergency personel for there response time. Although I do not know the thornton family, My family and I mourn your loss. You are in our prayers. God bless.

  4. Heather Shank says:
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    Thank you David and Mike for your kindness and for doing the wonderful heroic job that you do. I am one of Sue’s many cousins. We have a very large family and are devastated by what has happened. We are so thankful for your actions. Please thank everyone involved for all of their efforts. Without all of them this could have been a worse tragedy and we could have lost them all. May god bless you all

  5. Mike says:
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    Heather, thanks for the thanks. I was checking back in to see if there was an update on the family health. I did not mean to imply that I was an emergency worker, just a concerned traveler that tried to help. David and I don’t know each other, just that we were the first frantic travelers able to fight our way through the swamp and thicket to get to the scene. I will give some info to you, as if it were me, I’d want to know what and how this happened. How it happened, I don’t really know. Perhaps David had a better view. I was 200 yards behind the truck when it happened, and did not even know another vehicle was involved until I got to the scene. My recollection is that all at once, I saw truck brake lights, stuff (car parts) flying, the truck veering quickly to the right and going straight off the road and down thru the water and plowing thru the trees. The truck was still moving very fast (at least 60 mph) as it left the roadway. It took about 3 minutes to get through the water and thicket to where the front of the truck and van were. The van was so badly crushed that we could not do much except tell Daniel not to move and assure them help was coming. We could only see Daniel and Susan, because the back was crushed too much. Daniel was able to tell us that 3 children were in the car. Susan was very bad off and could not speak. I will say I was able to reach Sean’s hand and bare foot. He was sitting behind Susan. I don’t think he suffered. I squeezed his hand and called to him. There was no response and I got no pulse. I’m very very sorry for his passing.
    More and more men (travelers) arrived thru the 1st 15 minutes (about 20 I would say) and we did what we could to try to pry away twisted metal and move a fallen tree blocking access to the right side. The EMT’s started getting there in about 15 minutes, as we were not close to any large towns. At about 30 minutes, the heavy equipment like chain saws and cutters and jaws arrived. I left shortly after this so as not to be in the way. We had checked on the truck driver and heard him yell, but I can assure you the focus of everyone down there was the Thornton family. I can also assure you that all those involved that day went home in shock and have broken down and are grieving for the family as well. It is truly a miracle that anyone survived this. If you have an update on the family, could you post it. My prayers are with you and the family.

  6. Brett Emison says:
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    Mike and David — Thank you very much for your selfless acts in helping the Thornton family and for sharing your comments in this forum. I am heartened by your compassion and good will.

    My prayers continue to go out to the Thornton family, their friends and their neighbors.

    There has been additional coverage of this tragic wreck and I have posted the updates at http://kansascity.injuryboard.com/tractor-trailer-accidents/update-semi-truck-driver-never-hit-brakes-before-crash-killing-3-year-old-boy.aspx?googleid=276228.

    These updated reports provide information on the family’s injuries and eye witness accounts of the collision. The reports also reflect what a truly wonderful family the Thorntons are.

    Mike – reports would corroborate your recollection that the semi truck driver did not slow his vehicle before hitting the Thornton’s minivan.

    Thanks again for your selfless acts and for taking time to share your comments here.

  7. Lindsay says:
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    I am so sorry for you and your family’s loss. I have not stopped thinking about the Thornton family since seeing this horrific accident. I pray for them every time I think of them. My husband was also one of the first few men to get down to the van and semi and I thank God for the men that made there way down there to help. Heather, I know that you and your family are going through a lot and I pray that God lays his hand over all of ya’ll. Please let Mr. Daniel and Mrs. Susan know that there are so many people praying for them.

  8. Bonnie says:
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    I like Heather, would like to thank everyone for the love and kindness that you showed my niece Susan and her family. The loss of little Sean has changed our family forever. I also would like to thank everyone for their prayers.Please keep them coming as the road ahead will be a rough one. Dan and his 8 year old son have been released from the hospital. Their daughter whom suffered a broken arm and leg is now coherent and talking some. Susan’s foot has been reattached and she has been removed from icu. (she still has alot of healing to do) Today she was told that Sean has went to be with the Lord!So please continue the prayers for this Wonderful family.And Mike thank you so much for filling us in on that day. We still have many,many questions as to why the trucker was going at that speed and why he never hit the brakes but I guess that will be answered in time.

  9. Mike says:
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    Bonnie, thanks for the update. It’s hard to get any update on the family condition, as the news flow stopped after about 2 days. I’ve been particularly worried about Susan, since she was so bad off, and the other 2 children, as we could not reach or see them to see how they were. I will keep them in my prayers. I’m sure the details of this will come in time. From my vantage point being behind the truck, I never had any notion that traffic had slowed down. Why did the truck driver not see this first? He is up high and has the best view of the road ahead. Clearly distracted and not watching the road for way too long.

  10. mike says:
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    PS: I don’t even know what this site or blog is. I just happened upon it from a google and posted/re-posted as it appeared that family members also found it.

  11. Heather Shank says:
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    Mike~ I am glad my Aunt Bonnie was able to fill you in on Sue and the family. There have been requests from other people who were at the scene for updates on the family so if you would like us to continue please email me at kytten724@yahoo.com or you can find me on Facebook. I live in Ohio.

  12. Kristen says:
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    I too was on my way to Florida on vacation with my husband and 3 children. We passed the crash site about 1 pm and immediatly prayers were sent for the family in the white vehicle. It is a miracle anyone survived from what we saw. This accident could of happened to anyone. I-95 had so much traffic that day. Your family will continue to be in my prayers.

  13. Brett Emison says:
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    I have seen many comments from friends and family wanting questions answered, such as why the truck driver was speeding and why he never attempted to slow down before the crash.

    It takes a skilled team of investigators to find out the true cause of a tractor trailer crash. (read http://kansascity.injuryboard.com/tractor-trailer-accidents/tractor-trailer-accidents-cause-too-many-deaths.aspx?googleid=273182)

    Accident reconstructionists need to measure and photograph the crash site in order calculate the speed of the vehicles and how the vehicles moved during the crash.

    Forensic trucking industry specialists need to review log books, truck driver records, safety inspections and “black box” data. This information will show if the truck driver complied with state and federal laws regarding driving time, rest and maintenance.

    A forensic medical specialist should review the truck driver’s medical history and medical records following the crash to determine if the driver suffered from impediments like sleep apnea, diabetes, fatigue or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

    These questions can be answered with the right team of experts and specialists.

  14. Bonnie says:
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    Thank you everyone for all the prayers. As of today, Dan and both children have been discharged from the hospital.Praise God!!! Susan is still in the hospital but is now in what they call a regular room. She still has a long healing road ahead of her but things are looking a little better. Her dad is hoping that she will be able to travel back to Pittsburgh by the end of the week but we’ll have to wait and see. We are so grateful that we still have these 4 loving family members with us. There has not been a memorial service set for Sean yet as we are waiting for Susan to get well enough. I would like to thank Mike again for the information on the accident, it really helped knowing that Sean didn’t suffer.

  15. Facebook User says:
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    I didn’t actually witness the accident, but my family and I drove by before medical staff arrived. We couldn’t believe their was a vehicle in front, you could barely tell what it was.It left such an impact on me that when I got home to Florida I had to see what happened. I couldn’t stop thinking of the people who were involved. I was crushed to find out of the families loss and haven’t stopped thinking about it. My family and I were traveling with our 3 year old triplets not far behind this family. My heart aches for them and I pray everyday for them and their family. I hope the physical wounds heal soon, as I know the emotionally ones will last a long time. I wish all the best to the family and any updates would be appreciated.

  16. Bonnie says:
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    Again I would like to thank all of the many people who stopped to help my niece and her family. And for every prayer. Although we lost little Sean God has blessed us with the recovery of the rest of the family. Dan and both children are out of the hospital(still a lot of healing to do), Susan is still in the hospital but is recovering slowly, physically. Not sure when she will be able to travel back to Pittsburgh. Again thank you for all the caring!

  17. Mike says:
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    Bonnie, thank you again for the update on the family. Prayers are still with them.

  18. Bonnie says:
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    Good news, Susan is being released from the hospital today and will be flying back to Pittsburgh. She still has along healing road ahead of her due to her many injuries, but she is doing better physically due to all your prayers. Sean is being laid to rest on Saturday so please say an extra prayer for the family. Thanks!

  19. Brett Emison says:
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    Bonnie – thanks for your many updates and this is, indeed, good news. I will continue to keep your family in my prayers.

  20. David says:
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    Bonnie thank you for the update. My family and I continue to pray for the Thorntons. Mike I did not actually see the impact. I was headed north 95 and saw smoke and the semi entering the woods. I recall a silver truck making a sharp u turn heading down the shoulder of the road to get a cop that was pulled over on the side of the road about a mile back. Somthing told me to pull over I was in the fast lane and pulled on to the center median. I ran across trafic. Mike you described the horrific scene the way i saw it. So I feel no need to describe that again. Bonnie plz reasure Dan and Susan that Sean did not feel anything. God rest his soul. May god be with your family. God bless.