Wright pleads ‘not guilty’ to negligent homicide

A trucker involved in a major crash near Stanley last summer pleaded not guilty to three charges of negligent homicide Tuesday afternoon.

Vernon Wright, of Hiram, Ga., is accused of causing the crash and resulting deaths of Patrick Wilkie, 26, Minot, Tyler Fischer, 22, of Rhame, and David Maskey, 41, Minot, on the foggy morning of June 21. A tanker trailer filled with crude oil that Wright was hauling exploded after being hit by numerous vehicles. Several other people were involved in the crash but lived.

The oil and all vehicles burned for five hours before the fire went out.

Wright appeared before North Central Judicial District Judge Douglas Mattson at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot with his defense attorney David Dusek, based in East Grand Forks, Minn.

Dusek waived the preliminary hearing on behalf of his client, meaning that the court could skip retelling the details of the charges to establish probable cause and move straight into the arraignment.

Mattson asked for a mid-August date for a pretrial and a late October date for the start of trial.

The reason for the delay is that both Dusek and Mountrail County State’s Attorney Wade Enget, who is prosecuting the case, claim that discoveries are still being made in the case and that around 60 days would be needed for all of them to be done and to retain experts to testify. Dusek said that he has already retained one expert to speak on behalf of the defense.