Co-founder of cement company said some staff knew of deadly mist - WSMV Channel 4

Co-founder of cement company said some staff knew of deadly mistake

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A former high-ranking employee said the cement company knew the brakes in a truck involved in a deadly accident that killed 33-year-old Sergio Lopez weren't working properly, but used it anyway.

The co-founder of the company said the business ignored safety risks and said some members of the management staff tried to hide the truth.

Lopez was at the wrong place at the wrong time when he was struck and killed by a cement truck owned by Nashville Ready Mix on March 14, 2013.

"At the time of his death, he was 33 years old," said attorney Dave Rich. "He had two children. He was everything to them."

It had all the appearances of a tragic accident, but a Channel 4 I-Team investigation showed a co-founder of Nashville Ready Mix saying, in a deposition, that now only did the company know this truck's brakes were bad but tried to cover it up.

"I just wanted the truth to come out," said Donald Meadows in the deposition.

Meadows, one of the founders of Nashville Ready Mix, said he learned about the accident from a company dispatcher, according to the sworn deposition for a lawsuit against the company. Meadows said the dispatcher told him that Nashville Ready Mix's current general manager instructed drivers to “keep rolling” despite the systematic maintenance and safety issues with the concrete trucks.

He also said in the sworn deposition that the dispatcher told him the company and the driver of the truck had known about the bad brakes for weeks.

"They've known if for three weeks," said Meadows in the deposition. "They run that truck with busted air bags."

When he said busted air bags, he's referring to the types of brakes on the truck that uses compressed air to come to a stop.

"If they'd gotten the brakes fixed, we wouldn't be here today," said Meadows in the deposition.

In court filings, the company denied everything Meadows claimed happened, and how Meadows ended up giving a deposition against his own company is something right out of a Tennessee Williams' play.

Meadows said three days after the accident, he had a meeting with his granddaughter, who helps run the business, and the company's attorney.

He said they told him he needed to leave the company and offered him money to stay away.

"Donald Meadows testifies at length the hush money he was offered, and specifically testified it was hush money," said Rich.

Meadows later came back saying he wanted to see the records of the truck involved in the crash.

That's when he said Meadows, who can't walk without canes, said he saw the stairs to his office had been cut down by a chainsaw, replaced by a ladder he couldn't climb, and the doors were locked.

"Why do you think that staircase was cut down?" Meadows said in the deposition. "So I couldn't get the records."

While the company's attorneys couldn't comment because of the pending litigation, they did question Meadows in the deposition about something that happened more than 40 years ago in another case.

"Did you serve time in a penitentiary for perjury?" the attorney asked.

“Yeah, but that ain't got anything to do with this,” Meadows responded.

And the attorneys asked him what happened the day he discovered the missing stairs.

"You came down there and threatened to kill people, didn't you," an attorney asked Meadows.

"Oh, no," replied Meadows.

The attorney representing the Lopez family said those questions are just a smokescreen to cover up a public safety issue.

"When you operate a truck and you know it is unsafe, you have, in my mind, committed a criminal act," said Rich.

A criminal investigation may be underway.

The Channel 4 I-Team asked the Tennessee Highway Patrol about the crash. The agency said it couldn't comment on advisement from the district attorney.

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