NTSB Determines Cause of Fiery Big Rig Crash That Killed Five Children and Two Truckers

Alachua, FL – The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued its determination on what led to a crash that resulted in the deaths of five children and two truckers in 2019.

After an almost 18-month investigation into a January 3, 2019 crash along Interstate 75, a new NTSB report determined “medical incapacitation” of 59-year-old Eagle Express Lines (EEL) truck driver Steve Holland was to blame for the horrific accident.


“Autopsy results identified ‘ischemic heart disease’ as a contributing factor in the truck driver’s cause of death, however, the truck driver had a number of medical conditions and used medication that could also have caused incapacitation,” the investigative agency said. “Evidence from the roadway, dashboard camera and witness interviews suggest the driver did not attempt evasive action as the truck veered across the median and into oncoming traffic.”

Additionally, the NTSB indicated Holland failed to disclose all his medical conditions nor all the medications he was taking during his last medical certification examination.

“The failure to disclose his conditions to medical examiners led to his receipt of medical certifications valid for the maximum of two years each,” the NTSB reported.


However, NTSB investigators also noted that had Holland disclosed his relevant health information, it “may have resulted in a shorter medical certification period, but it would not have predicted his incapacitation on the day of the crash.”

Further, the Agency ruled out mechanical failure as a possibility, reporting both the 2016 Freightliner Holland was operating and the Vanguard semi-trailer he was pulling “had no apparent defects that would have led to the crash.”

Moreover, Holland was found to have been operating within the regulated hours of service at the time of the crash.

The Crash

The NTSB previously released its preliminary findings in April 2019 detailing the awful crash.

Investigators determined Holland was traveling north on I-75 at 3:41 p.m. when he unexpectedly veered into an Acura sedan also traveling northbound.


The initial collision caused Holland and the driver of the sedan, Robyn Rattray, 41, of Gainesville, FL, to lose control and crossover the center divider and into oncoming southbound traffic before striking a southbound 2006 Chevrolet 12-passenger church van from Louisiana.

The van rolled and struck a 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck.

Holland’s semi continued into the oncoming traffic before colliding with a 2018 Freightliner tractor-trailer operating in the far-right lane and driven by 49-year-old Douglas Bolkema of Albuquerque, NM.

Holland was ejected.


The big rigs erupted into a fiery inferno resulting in the deaths of both truckers.

Additionally, five children on-board the passenger van — 14-year-olds Joel Cloud and Jeremiah Warren, 13-year-old Cara Descant, 10-year-old Briena Descant, and 9-year-old Cierra Bordelan — also died in the terrible crash.

Eight others also suffered injuries.

Dash cam video captured from inside Bolkema’s big rig shows the deadly incident.

WATCH it below.

Lawsuits Flying

A slew of lawsuits have been filed by victims’ family members as well as survivors alleging “negligence, carelessness and distracted driving” on Holland’s part led to the fatal outcome.


Further, the lawsuits claim EEL was negligent and careless for employing Holland citing numerous tickets he received between 2000 and 2014 for speeding, driving an unsafe vehicle, driving an overloaded vehicle and not carrying proof of insurance.

It is a claim EEL CEO Wayne Hoovestol has adamantly denied, calling Holland an “excellent driver.”

This battle is just beginning to play out in court.

TransportationNation.com will continue to follow it.


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