Tree service owner wins appeal in I-295 accident case

MECHANICSVILLE, VA (WWBT) - A disappointing ending in court  for a Mechanicsville man who was nearly impaled on a tree branch while driving on Interstate 295.

David Dalton's car was struck by a spear-like tree limb through the windshield. Dalton says he could have died that day when a branch flew off the back of a tree service truck.

State Police charged a truck driver after our investigation last year, but the case was dismissed in Hanover Circuit Court.

Tony Jenkins, owner of E-Z Flow Land and Tree Service, was charged with failure to secure his load. Jenkins was a no-show in General District Court and was found guilty, but he appealed it and won. The judge said there was no proof the limb came off Jenkins' truck.

The 1998 Pontiac Bonneville still has the tree limb sticking out of the windshield.

"I've just been scared to touch it. I've been scared to pull the limb out of it," said Dalton.

Eight months after the day he says he nearly died on I-295, Dalton can't believe the truck driver got off and says he isn't giving up just yet.
"I just feel like the justice system failed me. I just wish it was something else I could do," said Dalton. "Hopefully a civil lawyer, I can get in touch with them and move forward that way. I'm not getting rid of the car until I know I've got to walk away and that's my last option."
Truck driver Tony Jenkins insisted in every phone conversation that it wasn't his truck. 
Jenkins says other landscaping trucks were hauling debris after the storm and his truck was picked from a group, when the limb could have come from any of them. The court sided with Jenkins.

"I feel like that's the man, Tony Jenkins. I just can't prove it," said Dalton.

It's difficult for the Daltons because at every turn, Dalton has had to fight. That's why he called On Your Side investigators.

First, State Police said there no witnesses. My investigation proved State Police dropped the ball. Matt McQuillan was on I-295 and stopped Jenkins truck last August.  A Freedom of Information Act request got me a copy of his 911 call, including the truck driver's conversation with state police, after the witness pulled him over:

"I was stopped by a motorist about three miles back. A limb came off my truck, hit somebody in the windshield. I don't know what to do about it... if you have a complaint, I have insurance and everything."

The witness was never subpoenaed to court.

"The prosecutor said he changed his story, that he did not see the tree limb come off the truck. It was in the air," said Dalton. "I believe 100 percent it was that truck. I just want what's right. I just want to be made whole again. I want my car. The damages paid for."

Jenkins didn't want to talk on camera, even though the charge against him was dismissed. For now, Dalton is getting to work in a 1987 Monte Carlo that a friend gave him.

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