LISBON - The driver of a dump truck that overturned onto the side and killed another man more than a year ago will serve at least 45 days in jail but will not get his license back for two years.
Michael Bair, 32, of Poland, had faced a first-degree misdemeanor vehicular homicide charge after David Mayfield, 35, Annesley Road, East Liverpool, was killed on March 13, 2012, by a dump truck falling onto his Dodge Durango off the side of state Route 7.
Bair, the driver of the dump truck, was hauling gravel for Sebastian Trucking Inc.
Bair pleaded to a lesser vehicular manslaughter charge in mid-April and appeared for sentencing Wednesday in Columbiana County Municipal Court.
Judge Mark Frost fined Bair $500 and sentenced him to 90 days in jail to start on Friday evening. However, Frost set a review hearing after 45 days, stating he will consider letting Bair out at that point and set up the terms of his probation then.
"I think when you are a commercial driver, you have additional responsibilities," Frost said as explanation of his decision to suspend Bair's license for two years instead of the 90 days recommended in the plea agreement. Although Bair may be granted limited driving privileges during that time, he will not be eligible to use that in order to drive commercially.
Assistant County Prosecutor Don Humphrey Jr. had noted he knew Mayfield. Not only had Mayfield served as a bail bondsman for those in the court system, he also had been a victim in another case, so Humphrey said he had worked with him several times in the months prior to his death.
"These cases are always difficult because of their nature," Humphrey said. "It's not a case where Michael Bair got up that morning and intended to kill someone. The impact of that will last for many years to come and possibly all the years of his life."
However, Humphrey also pointed out those getting behind the wheel of a "giant behemoth dump truck" also assume the responsibility to operate it safely. Bair had reportedly clipped one vehicle which was stopped in traffic in front of him, drove into oncoming traffic before overturning and instantly killing Mayfield.
In this case Humphrey said evidence would have shown there was factors which led to the accident, which could have included speed, assured clear distance, the weight of the vehicle and a braking system which was not in compliance. Humphrey said Bair had already hauled a load through that area earlier in the day and knew there were issues of traffic having to stop because of a truck entrance.
Bair's defense attorney, Colleen Hall Dailey, called what happened a "series of unfortunate events" noting her client attempted to avoid the first accident using "his best evasive tactics." However, that attempt caused the second accident to occur.
A large number of family members and friends of Mayfield wrote letters to Frost and were in the courtroom Wednesday.
Diana Mayfield, his widow, made a statement in court and described the trauma that losing their father has caused for her children, noting the 5-year-old has nightmares and is afraid of semi trucks, while the 7-year-old has been prompting calls from school due to his problems dealing with the situation.
Through tears, Mayfield noted she has four children who will not know what it is like to have their father at their baseball games, holidays, graduations and weddings.
"I will never forgive him for what he has done to my son," said Tammy Mayfield, David Mayfield's mother.
Mayfield's family members contended Bair has not apologized, lied to investigators which has slowed up the insurance claims and will now be free to move on with his life after 45 days.
Bair also had several supporters in the courtroom.
Travis Brown, the brother of Bair's girlfriend Christina Brown, said Bair is a good man who helps his sister care for her children. Both he and Christina Brown relayed that Bair has shown remorse for what happened in their presence, but had been told by attorneys not to speak directly to them.
Anita Brown, Christina Brown's mother, said she cried for Mayfield and his family when she heard about the accident.
"Everybody has their healing process," she said. "I do look toward the Lord. If you ask him he will give you his strength ... I have prayed for your family and your children."
Anita Brown said Bair and Mayfield were both going to work that day and nobody meant for this to happen. She noted after the accident Bair ran up and physically was digging in the gravel trying to get it off Mayfield's vehicle.
"Please find forgiveness in your heart," she said.
Before passing sentence, Frost urged the family to look for a way to forgive, not for Bair's sake but for their own.
Bair, who at first declined to speak, decided to do so just before sentencing. Turning to the Mayfield family, Bair said he wanted to "express my deepest sorrow." He added he has been trying to put that day behind him.
"There's nothing I can do," Bair said. "There is no time machine on either end of this."
A civil lawsuit has already been filed in the case by Diana Mayfield.
Johnson writes for the Morning Journal in Lisbon.