Court denies appeal in Loudoun Co. fatal food truck crash

Virginia’s Court of Appeals has ruled the conviction and sentence will stand for food truck driver Tony Dane, whose poorly maintained brakes failed, causing the crash that killed a Loudon County, Virginia, woman and seriously injured her three children and mother.

On Sept. 8, 2017, Dane drove from Front Royal in his school bus-turned-food truck on his way to a football game in Ashburn. Dane ran a stop sign on Watson Road and crashed into Erin Kaplan’s station wagon as she drove north on Evergreen Mill Road.

He told investigators his brakes had felt spongy halfway through his trip.

Dane was sentenced to almost 12 years in prison last July when a circuit court judge upheld the jury’s recommendations.

Dane was sentenced to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter, 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine for reckless driving, six months in jail for driving without a license for a second time, and $500 fines for operating a vehicle without a license and failing to have a vehicle inspected.

In his appeal, Dane’s lawyer argued evidence was insufficient to support an involuntary manslaughter conviction.

The court disagreed.

“Appellant chose to undertake a do-it-yourself repair to the most critical safety mechanism on a 22,000 pound bus — the brakes,” the court wrote. “In doing so, appellant ‘knew or should have known’ that a mistake could lead to catastrophic results, both for those on the road and those on the bus.”

The court ruling said Dane’s actions and inaction met the standard for involuntary manslaughter.

“Appellant’s negligence was so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show ‘callous disregard of human life,” according to the court. “Upon having reason to know there was a problem with his brakes in Middleburg, he had a duty to act to avoid the danger to other motorists, but did not.”

Dane has until June 5 to challenge the ruling and continue with further appeals.

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