Driver given probation in Missouri Southern State player deaths

Two years have gone by since a drunken driver flipped an SUV, and two Missouri Southern State University football players were killed on their way back to Joplin. The driver is now 21 years old; two of his teenaged companions that night will never reach their 21st birthdays.

A judge recently granted the driver probation in his convictions for involuntary manslaughter in the December 2011 car accident. He's also facing at least one personal injury lawsuit and a wrongful deathlawsuit, according to reports.

The Joplin Globe and other news outlets have reported that the owners of the now-closed Icon nightclub in Springfield also face legal claims for serving the underage driver that night.

The judge in the manslaughter cases had originally ordered the Harrison, Arkansas, resident to spend 140 days of "shock time" in a Missouri prison. But our state's Department of Corrections said later that the man is ineligible for shock incarceration.

In June, the former MSSU athlete pleaded guilty to the two counts in the 2011 crash that took the lives of a pair of 19-year-old football players and resulted in injuries to another passenger in the SUV.

The vehicle overturned on Interstate 44 near Sarcoxie after hitting median cables.

The SUV came to a stop in an eastbound lane of the highway; one teen was thrown from the vehicle and apparently died on impact. Another died inside the vehicle after it was struck by an eastbound 18-wheeler.

The driver of the big rig reportedly faces a legal claim from the family of the victim as well.

The driver of the SUV was tested with a 0.11 percent blood-alcohol level after the fatal crash. Missouri's legal limit is 0.08 percent.

He now faces five years of supervised probation and 200 hours of community service.

It seems unlikely that most people would consider probation and community service as fitting punishments, but that's what our criminal justice system has decided. Clearly, the families of the victims are seeking another level of justice by filing legal claims against the SUV driver, the nightclub owner and the tractor-trailer driver.

Those who are likewise seeking justice for their lost loved ones should discuss their legal options with an attorney experienced in matters of wrongful death.

Source: KTTN, "News," Nov. 27, 2013

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