Ithaca, N.Y. — The company that owns the truck that crashed into Simeon’s on the Commons in June has lost its authority to operate across state lines, according to federal documents.
It’s unclear whether the company now carries any valid insurance.
Quality Relocation Services Inc., of Spokane, WA, is shown as having had an “involuntary revocation” August 4 of its authority to operate as a carrier by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It’s operating status is shown as “not authorized.”
A tractor-trailer owned by the company barreled down E. State St./Route 79 toward the Commons at around 4 p.m. on a busy Friday June 20. Witnesses told police they believe it was traveling over 40 mph. The driver, Viacheslav Grychanyi, apparently could not brake the heavy vehicle and tried to make a right turn onto Aurora Street.
The careening truck sent a crowd of people scattering before it crashed into the southeast corner of Simeon’s, killing 27-year-old Amanda Bush, a pregnant and engaged mother who worked at the restaurant. A half dozen other people were injured, and three businesses were directly affected.
One of the businesses and a restaurant patron who was hurt have filed lawsuits against the driver and the company. A special state police unit is assisting city police in reconstructing the crash and trying to determine exactly what caused it. The results of that investigation are expected by late this month of early September.
Insurance coverage for the company has been a question since soon after the crash. One leader of a national victims’ advocacy group in trucking accidents said weeks ago that Quality Relocation Services’s insurance coverage was “woefully inadequate.”
Now it’s uncertain whether even that minimal level of coverage is still in force.
Carriers are required to prove that they valid minimum insurance coverage in order to maintain their ability to operate across state lines, according to Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for FMCSA.
The agency sent a notice to Quality Relocation Services June 30 alerting it that its insurance was due to expire Aug. 4 and that it must provide proof of coverage to keep operating.
When no such proof was provided, the agency served the company with an “involuntary revocation” dated August 4. DeBruyne was careful to say that means only that the company has not proven it has coverage; it’s possible that an insurance policy is still in force.
Attempts to reach company officials were unsuccessful.
Along with insurance questions, ownership questions related to the truck surfaced immediately after the crash. Ithaca police initially identified the trucking company as Auto Star Transport Inc., also of Spokane. But The Voice reported that Washington state records and FMCSA records revealed that company to be defunct. It had had a poor safety record — one of the worst by federal ratings.
Within a week, police corrected the initial report and said the actual owning company was Quality Relocation Services.
There was a link between the two companies: The man who had dissolved Auto Star with the state of Washington — Dimitriy Zhelez — was the same name listed as the officer or agent for Quality Relocation Services. Attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful.
Federal officials have become increasingly concerned in recent years about “chameleon carriers,” trucking outfits with poor performance that seem to dissolve and pop up with new names.
FMCSA is in the process of reviewing Quality Relocation Services, but will not address questions at this time as to whether it considers the company a “chameleon” in that sense.