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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Truck driver who barreled through two businesses on Freya Street, injuring many, says his brakes failed; trial set for February

The driver of the dump truck that plowed through six vehicles, a tax preparation office and a Spokane coffee stand in August blamed the crash on his truck’s brakes failing.

“The brakes went out,” McGavin Medrain, the driver, said in an interview last fall. “I mean, it was a nightmare.”

Medrain, 48, is charged with felony vehicular assault, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. He remains in the Spokane County Jail on a $250,000 bond.

A state trooper conducted a field sobriety test and determined Medrain was intoxicated on an unknown substance that day.

Medrain said he used methamphetamine the night before the incident but was sober when he crashed the truck. He said he has struggled with addiction for at least 20 years.

His trial is scheduled for Feb. 28 in front of Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tony Hazel.

Seven people were taken to the hospital the day of the crash, including a Dutch Bros. employee who sustained a fractured hip, according to court documents.

Witnesses said the dump truck was traveling on Freya Street, a northbound one-way street, at a “high rate of speed” and weaving in and out of traffic. Just past East Fifth Avenue, the truck struck several vehicles before veering west across the street and then driving through Liberty Tax Service and the Dutch Bros. coffee stand.

During an in-person phone interview Sept. 17 at the Spokane County Jail, Medrain said he was hauling asphalt and asphalt equipment down the South Freya Street hill before the crash. He lives in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and is unfamiliar with the area, including the steep Freya Street hill. In hindsight, he said, he should not have driven down it.

He said as soon as he drove over the hill, the engine brake, or Jake Brake, and trailer brakes quit working, so he smashed on his brake pedal. Medrain said he was told people could smell the brake pads burning down the hill.

“The brakes just went out,” he said. “It wouldn’t stop the load coming down. It was a pretty good-sized load.”

With essentially no brakes, he said he was able to avoid hitting cars at first. He said he looked down the street and there was nowhere to stop the truck without brakes.

Prior to the crash, the truck’s brakes were serviced and the engine brake was reconnected after being disconnected, Medrain said.

A police officer in the court documents said Medrain had various small cuts on his arms and legs, and dried blood covered almost his entire body after the crash.

Medrain, who said he is “very remorseful” about what happened, said he was thinking sharply that day and remembers every single second driving down that hill.

The trooper said Medrain fell asleep in the back seat of the patrol car on their way to the station “with sweat dripping from his forehead,” according to court documents.

Medrain said that a lack of oxygen and the high temperature in the back of the car made him pass out.

“If I was asleep (while driving), I’m sure someone would have died and that truck would have went further than where it went,” he said.

Medrain said he was driving for a company but declined to say which one. He said he acquired his Idaho Class A commercial driver’s license in 2010.

He said he has been driving trucks since then for the most part. Medrain said he will never drive a truck again after the August crash, noting that he can’t relive another experience like the one he went through.

Generally, CDL drivers can cross state lines if they‘re certified with their state’s licensing agency as an interstate driver, said Rob Wieman, spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Licensing.

“This accounts for most drivers,” Wieman said in an email.

Medrain said he was “pretty sure” he was driving legally that day. Officials from multiple agencies said they were unable to provide Medrain’s CDL status, at least in part because of privacy laws.

Medrain has a somewhat lengthy criminal history, mostly infractions and misdemeanors, with all of his offenses having occurred in southeastern Idaho. He has three drug-related felonies and one felony aggravated battery with use of a deadly weapon conviction, according to Idaho’s Court Portal.

His last felony conviction was in 2004, when he was convicted of possession/delivery/manufacturing or intent to deliver a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. He was sentenced to five years determinate in prison and 20 years indeterminate.

Medrain was released from prison in 2009 and his parole expires in 2024.

Medrain violated his parole because of the dump truck crash in Spokane, according to an Idaho Department of Correction parole violation report submitted by Kasey Jo Champion, a senior probation/parole officer.

The report requests a commission warrant be issued and Medrain be brought back before the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole for revocation proceedings.

While driving a commercial truck, Medrain has been found guilty of unsafe operation of a motor carrier (2016), driving an overweight motor carrier (2013) and motor carrier overhanging or extension of load violations (2011).

He’s also been found guilty of DUI, inattentive/careless driving, speeding (three times), failure to stop at a stop sign, failure to signal (twice), following too closely, driving without privileges and failure to wear a seatbelt (four times). All of those occurred before 2005, except for one of the seatbelt violations.

Despite the violations, Medrain said he is a good driver.

“People don’t hire you to drive a truck if you’re not a good driver,” he said. “If I wasn’t a good driver, I wouldn’t have been driving that truck.”

Meanwhile, Liberty Tax Service and Dutch Bros. will rebuild at the same location.

Kristen Young and Mark Mahaffey co-own the five Liberty Tax Service branches in Spokane, including the one that will soon be rebuilt on Freya Street.

Mahaffey said construction will start this spring on a 2,000-square-foot building. Liberty Tax Service will occupy half the building, and it will lease the other half to a to-be-determined commercial occupant.

Mahaffey said the new building will be constructed farther from the street than the previous 2,000-square-foot office. He said he and Young hope to open that branch in November or December.

Mahaffey said they have been working with Dutch Bros., which will be rebuilt on the corner of Freya Street and Fourth Avenue, to make sure the two businesses are on the same page.

Kevin Parker, owner of the Dutch Bros. franchise in Spokane, could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts.

Young said Liberty Tax Service was closed the day of the crash, so no one was inside the building when the truck barreled through.

“It could have been 10 times worse, and we’re so thankful it wasn’t,” she said.

Young said one of her employees called her to provide the unfortunate news that someone had crashed through the business.

“It was just really shocking,” she said.

Young said Liberty Tax Service and Dutch Bros. had to be demolished the day of the crash, and the rubble was cleared within a week.

Mahaffey said he believes insurance will fully cover the costs to rebuild.