BEL AIR, MD — Nearly five months after a fiery 12-vehicle crash in Bel Air killed two people on MD 24 at Ring Factory Road, charges have been filed against a tractor-trailer driver who Maryland State Police say "failed to slow down or stop and crashed into multiple vehicles." Carloo Watson of Brunswick, New Jersey, was indicted Aug. 27 by a Harford County grand jury on eight criminal charges, including manslaughter, tied to the March 11 accident that also injured four people.
He was indicted on two counts of gross negligence manslaughter by motor vehicle, two counts of criminal negligence manslaughter by motor vehicle, and four counts of causing serious injury while using a cell phone. The gross negligence manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years incarceration with a $5,000 fine; criminal negligence manslaughter has a penalty of three years in prison with a $5,000 fine, and the cell phone usage charges come with a maximum penalty of one-year in prison with a $5,000 fine, according to the state's attorney.
Watson was not impaired by drugs or alcohol, investigators said, and was not hurt in the wreck.
A businessman from Forest Hill and a second-grader from Joppa lost their lives in the pile-up.
Andrew Klein, 65, philanthropist and owner of Klein's ShopRite, was pronounced dead at the scene. His vehicle was one of the two caught under the tractor-trailer, police said, which was carrying ShopRite merchandise.
Tripp Johnson, 7, a student at William Paca/Old Post Elementary known for being happy and fun-loving, died at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center. Johnson and his mother were in one of the nine cars hit in the crash that did not catch fire, according to police.
Sarah Klein, one of Andrew Klein's children, said the indictment doesn't bring back her father or Tripp Johnson, and resurrects talk about the ShopRite crash.
"He's still not here," Klein told The Baltimore Sun of her father. "To me, it really has no effect. The fact that he's not here and that little boy's not here, whoever's at fault doesn't matter. I still have lot of trouble with it. Some people have moved on, it's still very open to me," Klein said.
Patch previously reached out to a man named Carloo Watson on Facebook, but he did not respond to a request for comment. ShopRite has not commented on the status of Watson's employment. Residents had asked for months when charges might be filed in the case.
"It's a 12-vehicle crash with a lot of questions that need to be answered," Maryland State Police spokesman Ron Snyder told Bel Air Patch in June. "It's going to take some time."
The double fatal crash happened about 7 a.m. on Monday, March 11.
A tractor-trailer had been traveling south on Route 24 and approached the Ring Factory Road intersection, where it "failed to slow down or stop and crashed into multiple vehicles," based on the preliminary investigation by Maryland State Police. It came to a stop at Ring Factory Road and caught fire, as did two vehicles pinned underneath it.
"Police were flying up 24 and I could see the smoke billowing," one Bel Air Patch reader recalled.
"I approached the accident shortly after it happened and I've never seen anything so horrific," another posted on the Bel Air Patch Facebook page that day.
Traffic had already been backed up in the area when the tractor-trailer did not stop or slow down "for unknown reasons" approaching the intersection, police reported the day of the wreck.
The Maryland State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division and Maryland State Police Crash Team worked for months on the probe.
Sarah Klein said she received emails about the crash the morning it happened since it involved a ShopRite tractor-trailer, and that is her family's business. Unaware that her father had been killed, she said that she was concerned about the driver.
"To find out my dad was in the accident was shocking," she told WJZ. She said every day, she gets the inclination to call or text him. Her sister, Rachel Klein, said that her dad would have been devastated by the loss of the 7-year-old's life, but told WJZ of reassurance someone had given her that "they can just imagine my dad holding Tripp's hand as they go up together, and there would be no one who would take care of him better than my dad."
In the weeks that followed the collision, Tripp Johnson's mother, Megan Fulleylove, reportedly underwent spine and arm surgeries. She was released from the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center to a rehabilitation center for further care before being discharged.
Megan returned home where she underwent more physical therapy, according to the latest update in April from the GoFundMe page that was created to support her care and pay for her son's funeral expenses.
"Although to look at her you'd never know she was in an accident many weeks ago; the inside of her heart is where her deepest pain resides. For all of you "Prayer Warriors" out there, please continue, as it is much needed and appreciated," the website said. "Although it will take a lifetime and many hours of despair to deal with their loss, a brightness resonates from within because of you. So from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU for all that you've given!"
About $100,000 has been donated to the family.