Little Havana - Flagami

City of Miami fires dump truck driver in fatal 11-car crash

Surveillance video of the dump truck that plows into taxi, killing one

Surveillance video shows City of Miami dump truck as it crashes into a taxi cab, killing the passenger.
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Surveillance video shows City of Miami dump truck as it crashes into a taxi cab, killing the passenger.

The State Attorney’s office believes Larry Ellis, a dump-truck driver for the city of Miami, was asleep at the wheel when his dump truck plowed into a stopped taxicab at over 60 mph, killing Pamela Plummer and setting off an 11-car crash last April by Marlins Park. But Ellis won’t face criminal charges.

He was, however, fired from his city job at a disciplinary hearing Thursday.

Ellis didn’t show up, Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said, but his union representative Sean Moy was given a termination letter for Ellis.

“Please be advised that you are hereby terminated from your position as Automotive Equipment Operator, II,” the letter read.

Among the reasons cited: “The investigation and evidence of this collision suggest you fell asleep at the wheel causing the motor vehicle accident.”

Shaun Yurtkuran, Plummer’s nephew, said he understood there wouldn’t be criminal charges but did want to see the city take action.

“I don’t think he should be driving for the city of Miami anymore,” Yurtkuran said. “If I were to fall asleep at the counsel table at trial, I wouldn’t be working anymore. And I haven’t killed anybody.”

Yurtkuran is an assistant district attorney in Hinds County, Mississippi. So, he says he understood it in a way the layman might not when David Gilbert, assistant state attorney for traffic homicide, explained in an interoffice memo that neither a charge of DUI manslaughter nor vehicular homicide can be proved: Ellis demonstrated no signs of impairment after the crash — blood tests support that — and falling asleep at the wheel isn’t a willful action, so recklessness gets thrown aside.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Yurtkuran said. “It seems like no one’s getting punished for killing my mother’s sister.”

The memo says the manufacturer of a prescribed drug Ellis was taking for a medical condition “suggests” drowsiness can result in new users. But when and how much Ellis had taken can’t be determined. Ellis’ cellphone had not been in use.

Alfonso said 11 different legal actions are pending against the city stemming from the accident, which occurred at the intersection of Northwest Seventh Street and 17th Avenue just before noon on April 8. Aside from Plummer’s death, seven people went to Ryder Trauma Center. None suffered serious injuries.

Ellis’ dump truck rumbled east on Northwest Seventh Street in the far right lane. Without slowing, it smashed directly into the rear of a Diamond Cab stopped for a red light behind a 2015 Nissan Rouge. Plummer sat in the back seat of the cab, which hit the Rouge in front of it, pushing the Rouge into the 2010 Nissan in the lane to the left. The truck plowed on into the crossing north-south traffic on 17th Avenue, hitting more vehicles, which spun into collisions with more yet.

The dump truck’s momentum ran out as it hopped onto the sidewalk just beyond 17th Avenue.

Gilbert’s memo said video and physical evidence led Miami police detectives to conclude the dump truck was moving between 62 and 67 mph when it hit the taxi.

Ellis has 15 days to appeal the decision.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal