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Phoenix Motorist Testifies in Personal Injury Suit about Horrific Accident

Posted by: Phoenix Arizona Personal Injury Lawyer, Wrongful Death and Accident Attorney

Terry Lauritsen was idling his Ducati motorcycle at a red light on Carefree Highway in north Phoenix when the truck hit him.

On Thursday, he testified in Maricopa County Superior Court in the trial of Michael Jakscht, the driver of the truck, which killed four motorcyclists and seriously injured five others on March 25, 2010.

Jakscht, 47, is charged with four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault and two counts of endangerment.

Prosecutors argue that Jakscht was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the accident.

A truck driver for a sanitation company, Jakscht had just delivered a load of manure to a speedway racing track near Lake Pleasant about 1 p.m. and was looking for a place to eat on Carefree Highway.

He told police after the accident that he saw the motorcyclists, then looked away. And when he looked back, he said, he noticed the traffic light had changed but simply couldn’t stop in time.

Lauritsen, a winter visitor from Iowa, was on a group ride from New River to Bartlett Lake with his friend Clyde Nachand and eight other motorcycle enthusiasts he had just met that day. They gathered at a restaurant in New River and had just crossed the overpass over I-17, where they passed Jakscht’s slow-moving dump truck, and had stopped at the traffic signal at 27th Avenue. There they were spread two-by-two down the road, with Lauritsen near the back.

There was enough traffic, Lauritsen said, that he let down his guard, shifted into neutral and didn’t check his rearview mirrors.

“Then I heard a crashing sound and a split second after that, I felt an impact, mostly on my right side,” he testified.

Lauritsen was thrown into the left-turn lane, his arm broken and his leg crushed. Nachand, 67, was not so lucky; he was dragged beneath the truck, killed instantly, and then incinerated when the motorcycle gas tanks exploded.

Photos of the scene show bikes strewn along the roadway and the pavement scarred by the dragging.

Two other riders, Stephen Punch, 52, and Daniel Butler, 35, died at the scene. Dayle Veronica Downs-Tonotchi, 47, died a day later.

The trial began June 8 and is expected to continue into August.

Prosecutor Tom McDermott’s case centers largely on whether Jakscht was impaired by the methamphetamine in his system. If so, his behavior could be considered reckless, a criterion for proving manslaughter. If not, then Jakscht’s defense attorneys, Robin Varcoe and Jennifer Wilmot, can argue that it was just a horrible accident, not a criminal offense.

Unlike accidents involving alcohol impairment, there are no standard guidelines for how much methamphetamine constitutes impairment and McDermott will have to persuade the jury through other factors.

On Thursday, a Phoenix police expert on drug impairment testified that Jakscht did not do well in roadside impairment tests he conducted at the scene of the accident.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/06/16/20110616phoenix-motorcyclists-killed-trial0616.html#ixzz1PfcWlRqC

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