BALCH SPRINGS — Authorities say a teenager was behind the wheel when his large truck veered into a highway shoulder and killed two North Texas women who were changing a tire on a Colorado freeway early Saturday.
Amanda Omo-Iyamu, 38, of Balch Springs, and her 48-year-old aunt, Shun Jones of Carrollton, were both killed by the impact.
“I would have preferred somebody that was capable of handling a truck like that was the one behind the wheel,” said Emmanuel Omo-Iyamu, Amanda’s husband.
Colorado State Police said Tristan Martin, 16, of Sulphur, Louisiana, was driving a 2003 Volvo truck-tractor at 6:30 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 70 near Limon, 90 miles east of Denver, when he hit the women.
Tristan and his father, Michel Martin, 37, had left a rodeo in Oklahoma and were pulling a trailer full of horses to Wyoming.
Omo-Iyamu and Jones were on their way to visit family in Colorado. Omo-Iyamu’s husband said she had just lost her job at a Marshall’s department store and was trying to reconnect with old family members.
"I miss my wife. I love my wife," he said. “It’s a very big loss for our family, because she was really a part of us.”
Moments after the impact, police said Tristan Martin’s friends — who were traveling behind the truck — picked up the teen and drove him away from the accident. His father stayed behind and took the blame for the crash, investigators said, before later revealing that his son had been driving the big rig.
Tristan Martin now faces two felony counts of failing to remain at the scene and two misdemeanor counts of careless driving that caused a death. His father, Michel, was charged with filing a false police report. Both have been released on bond from the Lincoln County, Colorado jail.
In some cases, teenagers can get a commercial driver’s license, but they must be at least 18 years old. Truckers who haul goods between states must be 21.
The teen’s family insists he didn’t need a special license because they considered the truck to be a personal farm vehicle.
“He didn’t need a commercial license; it had one axle,” Lydia Martin, Tristan’s aunt, told the Denver Post. “He had lots of experience driving the truck here on the ranch and on the road since he was 16.”
Colorado authorities aren’t entirely convinced.
“We are investigating whether he was complying with federal guidelines,” said Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Mike Baker.
Trucker R.W. Davis, 40, of San Antonio says on the rural open highways it’s not entirely uncommon for fathers to let their sons take control. He admits he was 12 when he first started driving a semi.
“My dad was a truck driver. From the time I was two, he took me in a truck with him,” Davis said. Still, he was quick to point out that he only drove on farms — never on highways.
“On the farm it’s okay, but not on the interstate,” he said. “It’s a whole different ball of wax. My dad would have never turned me loose on the interstate."