On the afternoon of Wednesday, July 25, 2012, Durham police officer Teresa Gilliam was in her unmarked police car, which was parked on the shoulder of I-85 behind a vehicle she had pulled over, when an 18 wheeler slammed into the back of her vehicle. The impact caused Gilliam’s police car to smash into the rear of the car in front of her.
Witness reports indicate that the driver of the semi truck, 44-year-old Charles Edward Caldwell, of Roberta, Georgia, seemed to be either falling asleep or drunk moments before the accident and was unable to stay in his lane. In addition, the truck was traveling at 70 mph, 10 mph over the speed limit.
Even after the accident, Caldwell appeared to be acting strangely. According to Officer D.J. Kuszaj of the Durham Police Department, witnesses said Caldwell sat in the cab of the tractor-trailer for a long time after the collision, talking on his cell phone.
Two of the four witnesses to the accident were professional drivers, Kuszaj noted.
"They both stated that Caldwell was unable to maintain his lane control for an extended period of time," Kuszaj wrote in his report.
Officer’s Condition Improves
Gilliam was transported to Duke University Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition for several days. A report released by a local news station said the officer sustained brain and spinal injuries, along with two broken ribs. She was released from the hospital the week after the crash occurred.
The driver of the car Gilliam had stopped was not seriously injured in the incident.
Truck Driver Charged With DWI and Other Violations
Caldwell, who was not injured in the accident, had blood drawn at the scene of the accident and was charged with DWI and felony serious injury by vehicle, among other infractions. He was taken to the hospital after the crash and then to the Durham County Jail. His bond initially was set at $500,000 but was subsequently reduced to $100,000.
Caldwell’s attorney said the results of a toxicology analysis conducted at the hospital indicated that the truck driver did not have drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the wreck. The attorney said Caldwell had suffered a medical event that, in turn, led to the accident. The results of the police department’s toxicology analysis were not yet available at the time Caldwell’s attorney made his statement.
Caldwell is scheduled for a court appearance in December.
The North Carolina truck accident attorneys at Tavss Fletcher wish Officer Gilliam a full and speedy recovery from her injuries.