Valdosta Daily Times

January 8, 2014

GSP issues report on fatal I-75 wreck

Adam Floyd
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The Georgia State Patrol has closed its investigation of a fiery semi-truck wreck that resulted in one death on Interstate 75 and released details Tuesday of the late December incident.

Just before 1 p.m., Dec. 28, a tractor-trailer truck traveling southbound on I-75 struck a pillar of the Old Clyattville Road bridge at Exit 13 and was quickly engulfed in flames. The driver, Troy Lee Whitt, 43, of Winter Springs, Fla., was killed in the crash, according to reports.

Documents released by GSP note that the truck was owned by Louis Kenda of Bega Express, a trucking company out of Madison, Fla. that also operates under the name Kenda Logistics.

While investigating the incident, Trooper J.M. Green spoke with Virginia Kenda Hernandez who stated that she was a co-owner of the vehicle. Hernandez said Whitt was an employee serving as a “co-driver” and that he had taken control of the vehicle from her father, Richard Lee Kenda, at the Pilot Truck Stop in Cordele. Richard Lee Kenda was inside the truck stop when Whitt drove off with the vehicle and proceeded south on I-75, reports stated.

The trooper asked Hernandez why the truck had not been reported as stolen, and she said “she did not believe she would get any help because the truck was not stolen,” reports stated.

Hernandez said that once she learned the truck had been taken, she began tracking it using a GPS system that was installed in the vehicle and attempted to use a feature that would remotely disable the truck while it was still in Cordele, but the device did not work. Had the device worked, Hernandez stated, it would have given the driver a five-minute warning before cutting off access to fuel, resulting in a gradual slowing of the vehicle, according to reports.

Hernandez told the GSP that she caught up with the truck near the southbound weigh station near mile marker 23 and was in front of the vehicle when it hit the bridge at Exit 13. She said that the truck was in the center lane when it turned suddenly towards the bridge support column and exploded on impact, reports stated.

Information from the truck’s GPS tracking system indicated that the truck was traveling at 72 miles per hour before the crash, reports stated.

Richard Lee Kenda told Trooper Green that Whitt had been on his cell phone most of the day arguing with someone but added that he did not seem upset and did not know why Whitt decided to take the truck, reports stated.

Whitt’s cell phone was destroyed in the wreck, and the results of Whitt’s toxicology report are pending, according to SFC L. Carl Taylor with GSP.

The Times contacted Kenda Logistics for a comment, but a representative referred all questions to the company’s lawyer.

The wreck closed southbound I-75 traffic then slowed traffic to a trickle for several hours during the busy holiday weekend.