CHARLOTTE, N.C. - At age 27, Ashley Watson was living the life she had wanted with a daughter and another child on the way. It all ended two years ago in an accident on Highway 321 in Gaston County.
Troopers said Watson ran into the back of a truck pulling a tractor. But then an 18-wheeler plowed into both vehicles.
Ashley was killed.
Her mother, Patricia Watson, remembers a young daughter so full of life. "Words can never express the loss of a child,” Watson said.
Troopers arrested the drivers of those trucks, saying they should've never been on the road because of broken tail lights and the fact that at least one of them was too heavy, carrying 8,000 pounds more than legally allowed.
Miller asked, "Do you think that played a role in this accident"?
"Oh yeah, considering the trucks were overloaded,” Watson said.
Troopers said it's a problem much bigger than most people realize.
"The more weight, the more damage that's going to occur in a collision,” said North Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. Gregory Clemmons.
Channel 9 spent two days following state troopers as they targeted not just heavy trucks but truckers trying to avoid the weigh station on Interstate 85 at the Mecklenburg/Gaston County line.
At 5 a.m. on a weekday, Channel 9 followed one truck driver, who we later learned was traveling from Monroe to Greenville, South Carolina.
He bypassed Interstate 85 and the weigh station and instead took Interstate 485 to Highway 74, a back road through Gaston County.
The weigh station sits on I-85 before Gaston County. Troopers said the driver was planning to get on I-85 after the weigh station in order to bypass it
Officers pulled him over on the spot and they found his truck 1,900 pounds overweight.
Troopers said he admitted to trying to avoid it.
"I asked him why he was going down Highway 74 and not the interstate and he said sometimes it's too much trouble going through the weigh station if he has too much weight,” said Trooper Randy Lankford, who wrote a ticket for $200.
Troopers pulled over a second truck because they thought the driver was also trying to bypass the weigh station.
It was overweight by several thousand pounds and troopers also found faulty equipment.
Lankford showed Channel 9 how a piece of the trailer connection was loose.
"If the trailer was to break away from the truck for some reason, then those brakes would not engage and that trailer would continue to roll and hit something,” he said.
But as troopers wrote the ticket for the weight violation, they noticed the company, All Budget Mechanical Services, had been cited for the same thing just a few months ago. Troopers decided to put the truck out of service immediately.
"The truck will not be able to leave until the company pays some of those fines,” Lankford said.
Channel 9 contacted the owner of the company near Atlanta to ask about those repeat violations, but has not heard back.
While troopers are doing more stings to crack down on overweight trucks, Ashley Watson's mother hopes what we found sends a clear warning to drivers, especially truckers.
"They're risking hundreds of thousands of peoples' lives by being out there on the highway. Why be out there to start with?” she said.
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