Texas crash claims life of OOIDA life member

January 9, 2020

Land Line Staff

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A crash involving two tractor-trailers last week on U.S. 59 Highway near Hungerford, Texas, left one driver dead and another facing a manslaughter charge.

About 6:20 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 2, a 1995 Freightliner driven by Ariel Hernandez Marin of Killeen, Texas, collided with a 2006 International driven by Bill Cutler, 65, of Mooresville, N.C. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Marin was attempting to make a U-turn after traveling north on U.S 59 South, and Cutler’s International, which was traveling south, collided with the Freightliner. Cutler died in the crash, and Marin was booked into the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office jail on a charge of manslaughter.

The crash occurred near the Texas Department of Public Safety Weigh Station on U.S. 59.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Stephen Woodard said Marin’s Freightliner had been traveling on Texas Highway 60 before failing to merge left and began going the wrong way.

“He crossed the double yellow line and passed multiple wrong way signs,” Woodard said. “He continued on to U.S. 59 traveling the wrong way on a one-way roadway. He then attempted to make a U-turn and that’s when the two trucks collided.”

According to the El Campo Leader News, Marin posted a $75,000 bond and was released. If convicted, Marin could face between two and 20 years in prison.

Longtime trucker, Navy veteran

Cutler, an OOIDA life member, worked as a truck driver for more than 30 years. He also was a Navy veteran and on the original crew of the USS Kirk, where he served at the end of the Vietnam War. He was on the ship the day Saigon fell, when it played a vital role in saving refugees, providing a landing pad for overloaded South Vietnamese helicopters filled with both military personnel and civilians.

The ship was also assigned to U.S. forces escorting the remnants of the South Vietnamese Navy – along with 33,000 refugees – from a nearby island to an American base in the Philippines.

Cutler was witness to one of the enduring images of that day – helicopters landing, off-loading refugees and then being pushed off of U.S. ships to make room for the next landing. The Kirk itself took in several, but had space for only one of the aircraft, necessitating the effort to clear the deck after each landing.

In an interview with Land Line Now that has yet to air, Cutler said, “Every time a helicopter landed on the flight deck, we disembarked the personnel off, disarmed them, and threw the helo over the side.

“Each helicopter was loaded with eight to 10, maybe 12 refugees coming straight from Saigon,” he added. “So you multiply that times 13 and then one C H. 47 Chinook loaded with people also.”

A Raleigh-Durham News-Observer story from 2017 described how, when one of the helicopter pilots went over the side with his craft, Cutler dived in to save him.

Cutler was also involved in an effort to preserve the Kirk, which has since been decommissioned by the U.S. Navy and sold to Taiwan. Members of the USS Kirk Association hope to purchase the vessel, return it to San Diego and turn it into a museum.

Funeral arrangements for Cutler were still pending.

Land Line Now’s Mark Reddig contributed to this article.

 

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