CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A recently released report claiming fatigue was the reason behind a truck driver causing a fatal crash in July 2020 has family members of one of the victims calling for charges to be filed.
On July 1, 2020, Charleston County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mike Costanzo and a tow truck driver, Will Ellis, were stopped on the Don Holt Bridge assisting a broken-down driver.
That’s when an F-350 with an attached trailer crashed into the back of the patrol car causing a chain reaction of events that resulted in Ellis being knocked over the side of the bridge into the water and Deputy Costanzo being pinned between a vehicle and the side of the bridge causing serious damage.
The truck driver, Dale Phillips, was given citations for the accident, but the Costanzo family wants more to be done.
“We just don’t understand. We’re not comprehending why there hasn’t been a charge,” said Chris Costanzo, Deputy Costanzo’s brother.
Costanzo believes Phillips should be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
The Costanzo family is also frustrated by the findings of the NTSB report.
Costanzo says the fatigue was evident, but he believes S.C. Highway Patrol missed an important step in the investigation, further postcrash alcohol testing.
Phillips passed a field sobriety test, but the NTSB says when a commercial driver is involved in a fatal crash, more testing is required.
“Postcrash, he was administered a field sobriety test by a police trooper, which was negative. Despite the driver having a commercial driver’s license and being involved in a fatal crash, which required the driver-National Transportation Safety Board Report
to undergo postcrash testing, no further drug and alcohol testing was performed. For many years, the NTSB has recommended postcrash alcohol and drug testing for all drivers involved in fatal crashes.”
The report also stated the driver told police that he observed an electronic sign that said that a lane was blocked ahead. He stated he was following a white car that suddenly swerved to the left, revealing the stopped patrol car, and he did not have time to brake.
Provided in the report is a photo taken from Deputy Costanzo’s body camera footage. The red circle indicates Phillips. The photo shows no car between him and the patrol car.
“He didn’t touch the brakes, he didn’t turn the steering wheel, the sleep deprivation was obvious,” said Costanzo.
The report also indicates Phillips’ phone was connected to the internet at around 3:45 a.m. when he told investigators he had to wake up at 6 a.m. leading them to question how much sleep Phillips was able to get.
Costanzo wants Phillips to be held accountable for taking someone’s life and hopes the S.C. Department of Public Safety and Highway Patrol will take another look at the case.
“Hopefully [they] will look at it again and realize there’s some probable cause to establish that he committed reckless vehicular homicide,” said Costanzo. “Mike wants to thank everybody for everything they’ve done for him up to this point and now he wants something done for Will.”