The man who drove the Jeep that struck several people in last week's deadly Massachusetts auction crash had a suspended driver's license, according to local reports.
The driver, an auction employee whose identity has not been revealed, didn't have a valid license at the time of the crash, which killed three people and hospitalized nine others at Lynnway Auto Auction in Billerica, Mass., near Boston. WCVB-TV in Boston and The Boston Globe were among the local media outlets to first report the news.
Lynnway President Jim Lamb said the company was unaware the driver, a man in his 70s, had an invalid license until after the crash. He said the driver had a valid one when he was hired in 2010. The man was one of several workers hired to drive vehicles at Lynnway's weekly auction.
"We hold our drivers to a high standard," Lamb said in a statement to the Globe. "If a driver loses the ability to drive in Massachusetts for any reason, we would expect them to inform us and we would not allow them to drive on our property unless they hold a valid driver's license."
A representative for Lynnway declined to answer questions or provide a statement to Automotive News, citing the ongoing investigation into the crash.
The May 3 crash occurred at about 10:13 a.m. at Lynnway's weekly dealer auction. The Middlesex District Attorney's Office said a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by the man suddenly accelerated to "a very high speed" around 10:13 a.m. local time, striking numerous people before crashing through a wall.
Police said an initial investigation revealed no evidence that the crash was intentional in nature, though it has not yet been determined if a driver error, a medical event, mechanical issue or another factor caused the crash. The driver has not been charged.
In an interview with Boston ABC affiliate WCVB, the driver said he tried to avoid as many people and vehicles as possible when the Jeep accelerated.
"I didn't want it to happen," the driver told the station. "I'm not happy that it happened, and I'm sorry about it. I want the families to know that I didn't intentionally try and hurt anybody. I tried very hard to miss everybody."
The driver had a valid driver's license when he was hired by Lynnway in 2010, though WCVB, citing his driving record, reported that his license was suspended in 2012 for various violations including a lack of an inspection sticker and a license plate violation. His license was not reinstated before it expired in 2015.
The accident has highlighted concerns about safety at auto auctions, which are often cramped with hundreds of people and dozens of vehicles driving through them. Lynnway, which bills itself as the largest auto auction in New England, said in a statement late last week that it would install new safety barriers as a way to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Lynnway's weekly auctions were scheduled to continue on Wednesday, according to a statement on its website. The auction will begin at 8:30 a.m. local time following a prayer service.
Meanwhile, the National Auto Auction Association and the Massachusetts Independent Automobile Dealers Association said Tuesday that they would raise funds for victims and their families. NAAA said it would donate $25,000 to MIADA’s GoFundMe page that seeks to raise $100,000 for the families of victims.
“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to all involved, including our NAAA member family at Lynnway,” NAAA said in a statement. “We urge all our members to please make a contribution today and share the link to the fundraising campaign with others through your social media.”