Driver acquitted in crash that killed four from KC

Beverly Garrett, 57, Beulah Hunter, 94, Elois Jeans, 81, and Anita Gibbs, 55, died in the June 1, 2006, crash. The women were in the same car, headed to a family member’s wedding anniversary in Kankakee, Ill., when the wreck occurred on Interstate 70 about 30 miles east of Columbia.

In April, survivors of three of the deceased settled a federal wrongful death lawsuit related to the fatal accident for $18 million. Gibbs’ husband, Roy Gibbs Jr. of Kansas City, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Boone County Circuit Court that is still pending.

Albright’s defense presented evidence during the two-day trial that the driver had a diabetic episode, “which basically put him in an altered state of consciousness” before the eight-vehicle pileup, Columbia attorney Mike Holder said.

The women’s car was stopped in eastbound traffic about 30 miles east of Columbia because of a wreck involving another semi. Albright’s tractor-trailer slammed into a line of cars, scattering them, then broke through median cables and crossed into the westbound lanes before jackknifing on an embankment, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The case was moved to Boone County on a change of venue.

Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Sterner said he did not want to criticize the jury.

“They heard the evidence, and they thought for some reason he wasn’t liable,” the prosecutor said.

Garrett, 57, was president of Local 1336 of the American Federation of Government Employees and also served on the local AFL-CIO’s Labor Council.

Hunter, 94, regularly volunteered at Jamison Temple CME on Linwood Boulevard and taught Sunday school there. Jeans, her 81-year-old sister, was a retired seamstress who was active as a volunteer at Palestine Baptist Church.

Gibbs, 55, had worked for the Kansas City School District for 32 years and had been principal of Askew Elementary since 2000.

In the federal lawsuit, Pro Logistics Inc., its parent company, CenTra Inc., and two CenTra subsidiaries settled after a federal jury found them liable for negligence in the June 2006 deaths of three of the four women. The jury awarded their children and grandchildren $15 million in actual damages.

The jury was considering how much to award in punitive damages when the companies agreed to settle for the larger amount.

Gibbs’ husband has sued in a separate action that is scheduled to go to trial later this year.

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