Testimony begins in civil trial against driver, trucking companies involved in GSU nursing crash

PEMBROKE, GA (WTOC) - Testimony got underway Wednesday in the civil suit against a truck driver and his employers after a deadly crash on Interstate 16 in April of 2015.

Experts testified on the impact of the tractor-trailer hitting one car then the SUV in which Georgia Southern nursing student Megan Richards was a passenger. Richards survived the crash but five classmates in the two vehicles died.

Attorneys say she suffered permanent back and brain injuries as well as unforgettable trauma. One witness described the scene as he tried to rescue her.

"You could smell the plastic burning, melting and falling off the car. You could smell the bodies burning," said Sgt. Robenolt, a witness.

Richards attorney's also questioned crash reconstruction experts about the impact of John Wayne Johnson's truck.

Johnson listened to his own voice from an interview with state troopers after the crash that injured Richards.

"I'd like to say I'm sorry to the families involved. This wasn't intentional. I can't explain why," the voice of Johnson claimed on tape.

Johnson said he couldn't see the stopped traffic from a previous accident until it was too late. With graphic images being shown for the first time in a courtroom, crash analysts testified Johnson's truck never slowed from its 68 miles per hour until he struck one car and pushed it into the SUV that held Richards and slammed it into another tractor trailer.

One witness compared the crash to bombs he'd seen in combat.

"I've seen crashes in Germany where people and engines got ejected out of cars and people with their heads split open on the Autobahn. But nothing even close to this," said Robenolt.

A doctor who studied one of Megan's MRI's said it showed brain trauma as the result of the impact. Impact another expert compared to driving a car backward off a seven story building.

Testimony will continue on Thursday.

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