The big-rig driver who slammed into an Amtrak train in Nevada, killing himself and at least five people on the train, was identified Monday as a 43-year-old Lawrence Ruben Valli II of Winnemucca, NV.
Valli was blamed for an accident in 2007 that resulted in serious injuries and racked up numerous traffic citations after getting work as a school bus driver in California.
Last week, Valli who was driving a 2008 Peterbilt semi-truck struck the side of the California Zephyr at a desert rail crossing on U.S. Highway 95, about 70 miles east of Reno. The gates and warning lights were working at the crossing, and Valli should have been able to spot them long before he reached the intersection.
He was pulling a pair of empty gravel trailers and it appears he hit the brakes moments before the crash Friday but was unable to stop in time, this according to the National Transportation Safety Board investigators.
The accident was similar to another big-rig crash Valli was involved in on Interstate 80 near Reno in July 2007. Valli failed to brake in time and slammed into the back of a Toyota Camry which was moving slowly for a traffic jam, according to a police report. He was cited for speeding in that incident.
Although the Toyota was crushed, only minor injuries were reported by the occupants of the Toyota.
Valli, who was not injured, said in a written court statement that the Toyota “slowed down too much for me to stop in time, and I drove over the rear of the car.” He estimated his speed at 60 mph, but an attorney for the Pinon family said others estimated that Valli had been going 75 mph.
Valli received a commercial license from Nevada in 2002. After the 2007 accident, Valli found work in California, where, over the next two years, he was cited five times for speeding in a commercial vehicle and once in a personal car, California records show.
Three of the tickets were for speeding while driving a school bus. He was also cited for using a cell phone while driving a personal vehicle and for driving a commercial vehicle while not wearing a seat belt, records in California show. It is not known where in California the citations were issued.
Jacobs said Nevada’s driving laws can be quite forgiving. It does not appear Valli’s license was ever revoked or suspended, he said.
Valli worked for John Davis Trucking, a family-owned company in Battle Mountain, Nev.
Investigators have recovered a cell phone they believe belonged to Valli and hope to be able to tell whether he was talking, writing a text message or using the phone for “any other purposes” when the crash happened, safety board official Earl Weener said.
He said investigators also have a videotape from the train that shows the truck before the collision but not the actual crash.
The video shows the weather was clear, the train horn was sounding and there was nothing obstructing the view from the road, Weener said.
Also Monday, the Nevada Department of Public Safety identified two of the passengers who died on the train, which was carrying 210 passengers and was traveling from Chicago to Emeryville.
Francis Knox, 58, and her 18-year-old daughter, Karly Knox, of Seward, Neb., were among the four passengers who died, authorities said.
One crew member, conductor Laurette Lee, 68, also died in the crash. Lee was a resident of South Lake Tahoe and formerly lived in Concord.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a big-rig truck accident contact the personal injury lawyers at the Alexander Law Group, LLP by email or call 888.777.1776. All calls free and confidential.