DPS: Truck Driver in Deadly Five-Car Crash Showed No Remorse, Was on Pain Meds

Truck driver Brian Knoll was under the influence of pain medication and showed no remorse after causing a deadly five-car freeway crash Wednesday morning, officials say.

Knoll's Freightliner -- fully loaded with a trailer full of pavers -- was traveling north on Interstate 17 about 6:45 a.m. when it plowed into 22-year-old Paul Troupe's silver sedan, causing it to explode in flames.

The impact killed Troupe, injured his wife, and caused a chain reaction that injured four other motorists.

Court records released this morning show Knoll, 54, of Phoenix, tested positive in a preliminary urine test for an opiate-based narcotic and that his behavior was oddly indifferent after being told at least one crash victim was dead.

Knoll, who wasn't injured, apparently didn't apply the brakes before or after hitting Troupe's car. He performed poorly on field sobriety tests, had "droopy" eyes and slurred speech, and was seemingly impaired by drugs, leading state Department of Public Safety officers to order an initial drug screening.

Mawkua Eliam, a passenger in a pickup rear-ended by Troupe's car, was unresponsive and on life support as of Wednesday night. The driver of the pickup was hospitalized briefly with minor injuries. Motorists in three other vehicles involved in the incident had less-severe injuries.

Knoll told officers he fell asleep at the wheel and had no memory of the crash. He admitted he's been taking Soma and other pain medications in the last few months for back and shoulder pain.

"Knolls demonstrated an unusually accepting and indifferent attitude towards the collision," court records state. "When advised he was under investigation for potential homicide charges, Knolls' behavior and demeanor did not change."

The Troupes were young Boeing engineers from Missouri who had been married less than six months and were on a trip to Phoenix. Paul Troupe was pulled from the wreckage by a fellow motorist, but he died later at a hospital. His wife had neck and back aches and possibly had a broken foot.

DPS officers seek several criminal counts in the case, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault with disfigurement and by using a deadly weapon, and endangerment. He was ordered releasable with a $20,000 bond.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern