BILLERICA – Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Billerica Chief of Police Daniel Rosa have confirmed that Lynnway Auto Auction, Inc. and Company President James Lamb were each indicted today on five counts of manslaughter in connection with the 2017 fatal crash. These indictments allege that the company and Mr. Lamb are criminally responsible for willfully, wantonly, and recklessly failing to take appropriate actions that could have prevented the death of five people.
After an extensive examination of the crash, investigators determined that Lynnway Auto Auction, Inc. and James Lamb who was responsible for day-to day operations, were aware of shortfalls in the safety measures in place at the auction facility and that they failed to ensure that all drivers were properly licensed and trained.
As part of the investigation into this incident prosecutors also reviewed reports by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as incident reports generated by Lynnway Auto Auction which described previous instances in which Lynnway employees were struck by vehicles or otherwise injured in unsafe conditions. Lynnway had previously been notified that they should not employ unlicensed drivers. Despite these recommendations, Lynnway and Mr. Lamb did not ensure that operators had driver’s licenses, and the employer did not train or ensure the employees knew how to operate the vehicles.
On May 3, 2017, at approximately 10:11 a.m., a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee being operated by an unlicensed driver employed by Lynnway Auto Auction, Inc. entered the auction showroom at a high rate of speed and drove into the designated pedestrian area striking several people, and crashed through the cinderblock wall. Two victims, Pantaleon Santos and Leezandra Aponte, were pronounced dead on scene. Brenda Lopez was transported to an area hospital where she later died from her injuries. Nine others were transported to area hospitals. Two additional victims, Elliott Rowlands, Jr. and Ruben Espaillat later died of their injuries.
Based on a review of video surveillance of the crash, investigators determined that the Jeep pulled up to the garage door and within seconds rapidly accelerated leaving the red vehicle travel lane crossing into the blue pedestrian lane. The vehicle continued until it crashed through a cinder block wall. It crossed the entire length of the building in under four seconds. Based on the reconstruction of the crash it is estimated that the vehicle was travelling at approximately 32 MPH inside the building at the time of the crash.
The investigation also revealed that despite an incident in 2014 in which a worker was seriously injured, the defendants failed to implement safety measures, including, but not limited to, installing barriers to cordon off the auction lanes and protect the pedestrians mingling and maneuvering between and around moving vehicles. Even though James Lamb signed the certification of corrective action worksheet and abatement letter on behalf of Lynnway in response to the 2014 incident, safety measures were not fully implemented.
After a review of all the facts and circumstances of the case, it has been determined that the driver of the vehicle will not face criminal charges. Although the operator of the Jeep was driving with an expired driver’s license, under Massachusetts Law, an individual is allowed to operate a motor vehicle on private property without a license. The Lynnway facility is not a public way; therefore the Commonwealth has determined that it would not be able to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver of the vehicle acted recklessly, and therefore he has not been charged with manslaughter.
In total today the Middlesex Grand Jury returned direct indictments of five counts of manslaughter against James Lamb and five counts of manslaughter against Lynnway Auto Auction, Inc. representing one count for each victim.
This crash was investigated by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, the Billerica Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
These charges are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. An arraignment date for Mr. Lamb has not yet been scheduled.