UPDATE: Truck Driver Charged In Fatal Crash; Teen Victim Identified

Posted: August 11, 2011

HARRISONBURG— A Bridgewater man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter following the death of a 16-year-old Harrisonburg High School student in a mid-morning wreck on southbound Interstate 81, just south of Exit 243, according to police.

A southbound tractor-trailer carrying milk changed from the left lane to the right lane and struck a four-door car with three student drivers and their instructor, said 1st Sgt. Frank Pyanoe of the Virginia State Police.

The car then flipped over and rolled several times before coming to a rest. In a statement, the Harrisonburg City Schools division identified the deceased teen as Ricky Valencia-Rocha, who was 16 at the time of the crash. The tractor-trailer also overturned.

Late Thursday afternoon, police charged the driver of the tractor-trailer, Robert Lambert Jr., 36, with involuntary manslaughter, said Sgt. F.L. Tyler, spokesman for the state police.

The instructor, Thomas “T.J.” Butler, and two other 16-year-old student drivers were taken to Rockingham Memorial Hospital, where they were treated and released, Tyler said.

Butler, owner of Butler’s Driving School, is also a teacher at HHS.

Lambert was also taken to RMH.

The Department of Environmental Quality was notified and a Haz-Mat team was called due to the milk spill. Though it is not a toxic substance, milk still needs to be contained as it could damage nearby waterways.

The crash is under investigation.

Traffic on I-81 southbound was closed between Exit 240 and 243 for several hours, but has since reopened. Traffic, however, remains heavy, particularly in the northbound lanes south of where the crash occurred.


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