Man enters plea in fatal crash

Published 9:36pm Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A man that police say was illegally using his handheld phone just before his tractor trailer plowed into two other vehicles and killing another driver will be sentenced in June.

Willie Lee Riddick, 51, entered Alford pleas in response to the charges he faced in Suffolk Circuit Court on Wednesday morning stemming from the Carolina Road crash last summer.

Though he maintains his innocence, Riddick acknowledged the evidence and testimony likely would have been sufficient to find him guilty. He is charged with seven crimes related to the accident, but four of them will not be prosecuted as part of a plea agreement.

Christopher Michael Fitzwater, 28, died in the accident in the 3100 block of Carolina Road just before 8 a.m. on July 25. His passenger, 23-year-old Alexander Edick, was injured.

According to prosecutor George Bruch, evidence showed Riddick, of Sunbury, N.C., left the APM Terminals in Portsmouth early that morning after receiving a load. He worked for C.A. Perry and Son Transit.

Driving southbound on Carolina Road, Riddick came upon the vehicle of James Barry Armstrong, 40, who was stopped to make a turn into a private driveway.

Riddick slammed on the brakes, and the truck jackknifed. It struck both Armstrong’s vehicle and the one driven by Fitzwater, which was coming northbound.

Cellphone records showed Riddick had been on the phone at 7:56 a.m. and again at 8 a.m., Bruch said.

Riddick had no criminal record before the crash, Bruch added.

He entered pleas on involuntary manslaughter, illegal use of a handheld device while driving a commercial vehicle and falsifying driving records. The plea agreement calls for no active prison time with a five-year suspended sentence, but the final sentence will not be imposed until June 27.

 

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  • KNRMCO

    YES IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, I’m sure he had no intention of causing a deadly accident when he awoke that morning, but the fact is, he was distracted by the phone. Had someone been driving behind you when you suddenly braked due to the person ahead of you braking & the driver behind you rear ended you be any different? It would be the drivers fault that rear ended you. A very sad situation indeed.

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  • hambone

    Hopefully the truck driver will be sued civilly and pay . Also causing a accident with injuries needs to be felony with jail time. If people start loosing there freedom then the wont do stupid things like drive and talk on cell phones. Talking on phone destroyed this family . Also take this guys Cdl for life.

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  • hambone

    Hopefully the truck driver will be sued civilly and pay . Also causing a accident with injuries needs to be felony with jail time. If people start loosing there freedom then the wont do stupid things like drive and talk on cell phones. Talking on phone destroyed this family . Also take with this guys Cdl for life.

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  • mcdb

    No one wins. The driver forever has this wreck on his record and conscience but to say that it was the fault of Chris Fitzwater or James Armstrong is absurd…and frankly an insult to the family of Mr. Fitzwater. Perhaps a driver who was not on his phone and using a safe following distance would’ve been the saving graces on this terrible day.

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    • whitemarshtaxpayer

      not an insult to anyone …. just the fact that maybe if they were paying more attention to their driving the tragic event could have been avoided

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      • alwayssuffolk

        Sounds like an insult to me. Evidently since you, whitemarsh, are so well versed on vehicle crash investigations, you need to join the police department. As a matter of fact, you seem to be an expert on everything based on your comments on this site. Until you know what happened and not just what is put out via the media, some comments should stay unwritten. By the way, they are vehicle crashes not accidents.

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  • walle

    @whitemarshtaxpayer did you investigate this accident, I am just curious because you evidently know exactly what happened and the police investigating it did not, maybe you should have talked to them and let them know what the problem was. I too feel very sorry for Mr. Fitzwater’s widow and child, as it was a very unfortunate accident, however if the truck driver had been paying attention as the police report stated when the original articles of this incident were written it would have never happened. How do you not know that the driver of the pick up turning into his drive way didn’t try to drive off, you probably don’t so don’t be so quick to pass judgement on other people until you know the whole story.

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    • whitemarshtaxpayer

      it was told in the paper that the guy turning left only pulled to the side … why didnt he just mash the gas and move on down the road ??? And on the other hand why didnt the young man that got hit head on take his chances going thru the ditch and the yard to the right rather than hit the truck head on .. Again every accident is avoidable .. but not always are they avoided

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  • mamabearof3

    @whitemarshtaxpayer…not sure why you sound so upset over this article. As you said this was an accident, and as far as everyone paying attention, the one vehicle was stopped to turn into his driveway and the other vehicle was coming down the road in the opposite direction, pretty sure he wasn’t thinking that a tractor trailer was getting ready to jack-knife in front of him. No one is calling this man a criminal, but when you obtain a CDL drivers license you have certain laws that differ from a regular license for a reason. You are driving a deadly weapon as the size of those trucks can do so much damage to a regular vehicle. He should NOT have been using his cell phone – period! It is against the law for a CDL holder to use a cell phone at any time when the vehicle is in motion. If he would have been paying attention and not on the phone this accident could have been avoided. It is sad for everyone involved, but for the wife and small child that were left behind my heart breaks for them! Mr. Riddick will have to live with this accident for the rest of his life and I am happy that he will not have serve jail time. I am sure that if he could go back to that day he would do things differently.

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    • whitemarshtaxpayer

      All accidents are avoidable … If everyone including everyone then there would not been this tragic accident . Why should we brand the truck driver for life over something that he had no intentions of happening .. IF the gentleman turning into his driveway had been paying attention as a good defensive driver should do then the truck driver might not have jackknifed .. So where is his culpability ??? Did we check to see if he was on the phone ??? I personally just dont like to think that people find closure to this by putting the entire blame on a man that was just doing his job !!! And by the way thanks for the lecture on what a CDL license entails ..

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      • WTF

        @whitemarshtaxpayer…You are ridiculous. (IF the gentleman turning into his driveway had been paying attention as a good defensive driver should do then the truck driver might not have jackknifed)
        1.) The gentleman was paying attention by putting on his signal to turn.
        2.) Waiting for oncoming traffic to pass by.
        3.) I’m pretty sure when you are waiting to turn you are not watching behind you the whole time to make sure no one is not slowing down.
        4.) Even if the guy turning did see the truck not slowing down and “mashed on the gas”, I’m sure the truck would have still hit him.
        5.) You state the man was just doing his job…his job is to maintain safety of him and others at all times while behind the wheel of a tractor trailer…not distracted by a cell phone.

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  • whitemarshtaxpayer

    This was purely an accident !!! Nothing criminal was done by the truck driver … I guess it makes some feel good to think that they have prosecuted A truck driver. If all involved in the ACCIDENT had been paying attention to what they were doing it would never have happened and that means everyone ..

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