Truck driver found not guilty in crash that killed Kernersville man

truck

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A Forsyth County jury Wednesday overturned the December conviction of a Charlotte truck driver in connection with a crash that killed a Kernersville man last May.

Hiep Tan Truong, 45, of Charlotte had been on trial last week on a charge of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in Forsyth Superior Court.

A jury found him not guilty of that charge Wednesday after a trial over two days.

Truong was initially convicted of the charge in Forsyth District Court in December. Judge Victoria Roemer sentenced him to 75 days in jail, but Truong appealed to Forsyth Superior Court, setting in motion the jury trial last week.

The sentence was put on hold pending Truong’s appeal.

According to testimony, Truong was driving a truck owned by N.C. Food Distributors on the afternoon of May 6, 2013, and had been delivering food to restaurants. He was traveling south on U.S. 52 in a rainstorm when he lost control of the truck, going over a concrete barrier and landing on the hood of a 2008 Chevy Impala that was traveling north.

Kenneth Baum III, 41, of Kernersville died in the crash. Truong wasn’t injured, and a passenger, Almer Ambrocio, 18, of Charlotte, suffered a minor injury.

Assistant District Attorneys Matt Breeding and Katie King argued that Truong was driving too fast for the road conditions, causing the truck to hydroplane.

Breeding said that Truong told one officer that he was traveling 60 mph and told another officer that he was traveling between 55 mph and 60 mph. The speed limit on that section of U.S. 52 is 55 mph.

Breeding said Monday that it was difficult to determine the precise speed that Truong was driving.

“Our position was it didn’t matter how fast he was going,” he said. “He was going so fast that he lost control of the truck.”

James McMinn, Truong’s attorney, argued that Truong’s truck didn’t hydroplane and that one of his tires blew out.

McMinn had an accident-reconstruction expert who testified that commercial vehicles like the one that Truong was driving are designed not to hydroplane when traveling less than 100 mph. That expert also testified that Truong had a tire that blew out.

The jury began deliberating Wednesday at 3 p.m. and returned at 3:55 p.m. with the verdict, according to court records.

Breeding said that Baum’s family was devastated by the verdict. Baum was engaged to be married and had two sons of his own. His fiancée had two daughters. Baum’s father, Kenneth Baum Jr., is a former Army Ranger who fought in Vietnam.

“They were heartbroken,” Breeding said.

Truong testified, Breeding said, and apologized to the family.

“He said he was just driving a truck to take care of his family,” Breeding said.

11 comments

  • Mark

    While this story is tragic, and a family is without their father/son/fiancee, I do not understand the family being devastated that the man was found not guilty. Clearly it was an accident. The driver could not have known his tire would blow. Our prisons exist to protect us from the violent predators that exist in our society, not to help a family gain closure or satisfaction over the loss of a loved one due to incidences of chance.

  • Irene Carmen

    First it was raining. Second the speed limit is 55 in that stretch of hwy. He didn’t have any business allegedly going 60 in a 55 in rain. How do they not know that the tire may have blew out when he hit the concrete barrier. Those types of trucks are very top heavy and at a high rate of speed can tip over. And I’d like to see these trucks being tested at the speed he was going and not hydroplane. I have seen these trucks fly by me when I’m in an 18-wheeler! You can’t convince me that is wasn’t his fault. I have seen the evidence left behind the day after the accident. Maybe jail is not the answer for him, but losing his CDL is.

  • Family member of victim

    He never had a cdl so he did not know how to control or drive the truck, his tire did not blow out, the defense made up a story. To confuse the jury.

  • Angie Gibson

    Mark,

    We are devastated because this man is still driving on the roads with YOUR family. Trust me, we pray for your family as much as we do for ours. Apparently a prior DUI conviction, a conviction for excessive speed (15+ mph over the speed limit) while drunk, this accident (where the truck driver himself admitted on the stand in both trials that he was driving too fast and lost control of his truck, never mentioning a blown tire ever), and two SUBSEQUENT speeding tickets is still not enough for him to lose his license. It makes you wonder who actually is driving on our roads, doesn’t it? As for gaining “closure” or “satisfaction” through any legal proceeding, I can only assume you have been fortunate enough not to lose someone close to you through tragic circumstances. I can assure you that is not how the process works.

  • Felix

    To the Family of Victim, if it is true that he had no CDL at the time of the crash, then he had no business being behind the wheel at that time. I do side with you, and wonder why he was found innocent.

  • Mike

    First, I’m sorry for the family’s loss. Second, The truck was a straight truck, and based on the weight carrying capacity of the truck, CDL’s may not be required (think BIG u-Haul) so that should not even be an issue. Third, have YOU never sped over the speed limit?

  • Mark

    Hi Angie,

    None of that was mentioned in the article. With that being the case, it sounds like a case against the company that hired him to drive for them would be in order. If he was breaking the law when this accident occured then I would agree that the conviction should not have been overturned, and both he and his company should be held responsible. If, however, he was legally allowed to drive that type of vehicle, and a tire did blow as the expert testified, then I believe legally a conviction was not warranted. I am truly sorry for your loss. I was not trying to diminish it in anyway. I worry everyday when my wife leaves the house, for fear of something like this happening. I don’t know how I would react if put in your shoes. My original comment was based solely on this article. Maybe FOX should provide more facts next time.

  • Angie Gibson

    Mike, yes I have sped before and had I killed someone I would expect to be held responsible.

    Thank you Mark. This article leaves out a great number of details. We have learned over the last 10 months that news stories are seldom completely accurate and sometimes just blatantly wrong. According to this I need to inform my son when he gets home from school today that he is actually a girl. ;)

  • JDee

    I remember when this incident happened mostly because of how bad that storm was. It wasn’t just a little rain … it was a thunderstorm with high wind gusts. There is just no way he should have been attempting to go anywhere near the speed limit. I don’t think jail time was necessary but this incident combined with his other violations should have been enough to revoke his license, at least for a period of time. Even if the tire did blow out … I still say the jury got this wrong.

  • jerry

    The man was driving a vehicle that was in an accident that caused loss of life. He is guilty of something. You don’t just say sorry and walk away from that.

  • Family

    The whole incident was horrid for us, We forgave him for killing Ken what we didn’t forgive him for was Not pleading guilty at the start If you kill someone you should be help responsible, He never mentioned any tires blowing out, This was no accident He didn’t intentionally kill him But, he did Go 47-56 Is what the expert said (Still too fast) And apparently You can’t hydroplane in a truck without going 100 Mph.
    This was no accident!

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