The Knox County EMS ambulance driver who killed one teen and injured two others when he ran off the road and hit them with an ambulance in August was allegedly under the influence of intoxicants and speeding at the time.
According to the indictment returned in Knox County, 25-year-old Kevin French of Keavy is facing charges of second-degree manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault and speeding in connection with the death of 14-year-old Samson Callender and injuries sustained by Keyshawn Blevins and Trenton Brock.
The trio was riding bikes on U.S. 25E near Sammie’s Auction House in the Gray community about 10 p.m. on August 23.
French was transporting a patient from Barbourville to Baptist Health Corbin.
According to the accident report, the ambulance dropped off the roadway and struck the trio as they rode their bikes in the median dividing the four-lane highway.
According to the report from the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab, which was obtained by The News Journal, a blood sample taken from French at Baptist Health Corbin approximately two hours after the incident indicated the presence of marijuana in his system.
The report identifies the marijuana as, “Delta 9.”
According to the website d9collective.com, Delta 9 is a company based in Van Nuys, Calif. that sells medical marijuana
The marijuana is available to be used by smoking, in a vaporizer, mixed in chocolate candy or hard candy, in a pill capsule, or in a chocolate bar.
While marijuana may be used to treat pain, its use can alter the ability to see and hear, as well as cause fatigue.
“We understand that he had been at work for 21 straight hours when that happened, but we haven’t been able to find that out for sure yet,” said attorney David O. Smith, who is representing Callender’s parents in the lawsuit filed against Knox County, Knox County EMS and French in February.
According to the indictment, French was allegedly driving 70 mph in a 55 mph zone.
It remains unknown whether or not French had activated the ambulance’s emergency lights and siren.
Smith said he has been unable to get an answer to that question, but said he is continuing to find that out through discoveries and interrogatories.
Under Kentucky Law, emergency vehicles transporting a patient to medical facilities are not subject to posted speed limits provided the lights and sirens are activated.
However, even with the lights and sirens activated, the driver is not relieved of, “the duty to drive with regard for the safety of all persons and property upon the highway,” the statute states.
Another question Smith has been attempting to learn the answer to is whether or not French has been tested for drugs while employed.
Smith said he has been told by Knox EMS officials that an out-of-town company performs the drug testing, and Knox EMS does have the results of those tests on file for any of its employees.
“They said, ‘We don’t have any results of any employees in our office,’” Smith said.
“The case has been pretty contentious,” Smith added. “They haven’t cooperated a bit.”
French is scheduled to be arraigned in Knox Circuit Court at 1 p.m. on Aug. 7.
Kentucky Law defines second-degree manslaughter as causing the death of another person, which is the result of the accused’s operation of a motor vehicle.
Second-degree assault is defined as intentionally causing physical injury to another person by means of a dangerous instrument
Second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault are both Class C felonies, carrying a potential prison sentence of five to ten years.
Should French be found guilty, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Brandon Jones said Kentucky Law permits the court, or, if the case goes to trial, the jury to order the sentences on each count to be served concurrently or consecutively.
If the sentences run concurrently, for each day in prison, credit would be given toward each sentence. If the sentences run consecutively, the sentences are stacked, meaning a maximum sentence of 30 years.
Smith said a motions hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled for August with the case scheduled to go to trial in 2016.
Callender’s parents, Rodney Callender and Holly Dale Johnson, filed the lawsuit in February, claiming negligence on French’s part resulted in their son’s death.
They are seeking to recoup $15,603 in medical and funeral expenses, along with unspecified compensation for the loss of affection and companionship from their son, the loss of the 14-year-olds future ability to earn money, and punitive damages.
“I’ll never forget his smile and his laughter,” said Holly Johnson of Samson.
“He was my baby.”
French has faced multiple criminal and traffic-related charges, the most recent occurring on Sept. 29 in Laurel County.
According to court records, French was clocked driving 80 mph in a 70 mph zone on Interstate 75.
French paid the citation.
On Nov. 26, 2012, French was arrested in Madison County on charges that he was intoxicated when he walked into a stranger’s garage and threatened the individual with a knife.
According to police, officers were called to the home in response to a complaint of a home invasion.
When officers arrived, they found the homeowner sitting on top of French to detain him.
The homeowner told police that French pulled up and walked inside the open garage door and asked for an individual named, “Chris.”
When the homeowner asked French if he had the correct address, French reportedly reached into his waistband as if he was going to pull out a gun. The victim grabbed French and took him to the ground until police arrived.
Officers noted the smell of alcohol coming from French and that his speech was slurred.
French pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 150 days in jail, conditionally discharged, provided he have no further legal issues over the next two years.