Armored truck wreck lawsuit over, but healing ongoing
It's a number that's haunted Denis and Marsha Wauson for years.
That's how many pounds the armored truck their son, Ray Wauson, 24, was riding in weighed.
He was riding in the back with boxes of dense coins June 18, 2010, when the truck's right tire blew out on U.S. Highway 59 near Edna, killing Ray Wauson and injuring the driver, Jim Hopping.
"It took a larger wrecker to even pick it up," said Denis Wauson.
"It was like it was just yesterday. He died a cruel death," Marsha Wauson added.
Ray Wauson's common-law wife, Amber Machicek, decided to sue his employer, Victoria-based Triple D Security Corp.
She claimed Triple D was guilty of gross negligence when it loaded down the truck despite employees voicing concerns about the practice.
She still remembers how eager Ray Wauson was to transition from working at Home Depot to being an armored guard. She hoped she could save someone else from his fate.
"He would get up every morning at 3 and make me pin that badge to his shirt," Machicek said. "I remember stabbing myself many a time putting the badge on, but he had to have it absolutely straight, absolutely perfect."
Machicek and the company settled the lawsuit out of court last month with each party promising not to disclose how much money Triple D's insurance provider paid.
A judge dismissed the case in Jackson County on Jan. 22.
Denis Wauson said he would have sat in the courtroom every day if it had gone to trial.
"To me, it's almost like a criminal trial. Now, we won't get to see the person who was actually at the heart of it be punished," he said.
In the midst of the lawsuit, Triple D's owner, Jay Lack, sold a portion of his business to a company called Garda, so making his armored trucks safer became somewhat of a moot point, said Machicek's attorney, Robby Alden.
"There was plenty of work left to be done, but we mediated the case (on Jan. 10) before we incurred too many expenses that would have made it difficult to reach a settlement," Alden said.
Alden does not know what effect the case will have on the armored car industry.
"When you settle a case like this, a lot of information does not come out," he said.
But three depositions given by employees shed a light on what shape the armored trucks were in.
The day of the wreck, Hopping was in a rush to make the drive to Houston and did not want to fill the tires with air. Employees did not have a tire gauge to use anyway, and there were also no straps to secure the coins, Stacy Martin, an employee, said in a Nov. 5 deposition.
It was not until after the wreck that Martin was told to keep the loads under 2,500 pounds, he said.
"I'm not too sure where he (my boss) got the number from, but that was the magic number, and I had to stick to it," Martin said.
Others talked about how the trucks often malfunctioned.
"In July, in Texas, inside of an armored vehicle with no air conditioner, it's probably 120 degrees in that thing. I mean, it's deathly hot," another employee, Dan Garza, said in a Nov. 5 deposition.
Triple D's attorney, Emma Cano, did not respond to requests for comment. Lack was out of town Friday and could not be reached.
Ray Wauson did not bring work home with him, but Machicek remembered he worried his insulin would be depleted or rendered useless in the hot truck.
"We joked one time that he used a Bungee cord to close one of the truck's doors," she said. "I didn't think about what he meant by that. ... To me, it didn't register."
Ray Wauson was a thoughtful person and can rest now that the industry has been taken to task for its policies or lack thereof, she said.
"It was never about the money. It was never about what I could get out of it. If I didn't get a dime out of it, I would have been fine as long as every one of those guys who signed up to be an armored guard went home every day," she said, remembering how Ray Wauson blew her a kiss goodbye at their Victoria apartment June 18. "They are sons; they are husbands; they are fathers."
Ray Wauson was his parents' only child.
Pictures of him along with dried roses from his funeral are scattered throughout their Yoakum home. His parents will never be the same.
His mother misses how he used to hunt, how he used to tinker with things.
"He was good at everything," she said. "If anything digital was out of whack, I'd wait for Ray to come home."
His father, meanwhile, has worked with a Houston-based law firm to write regulations for the industry that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted.
Now, armored trucks cannot stack the coins so close to the tailgate. They must also secure them with nylon nets. There's still more work to be done, he said.
"We were able to stop the needless injuries and deaths caused by this, but the actual loss, it's still there," Denis Wauson said. "To put into words how it feels is impossible."