Truck driver found not guilty in crash that killed Kernersville man
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.