Overloaded van driver gets 2 years for crash that killed 2

The driver of an overloaded van that overturned on a southwestern Indiana highway last year, killing two women, may serve as little as two years in prison after pleading guilty to 10 charges Monday.

Only two of the 14 years of James D. Allen's sentence will be served in the Indiana Department of Correction under a deal reached between defense attorneys and prosecutors, the Evansville Courier & Press reported. The sentence also includes two years of probation and the potential for work release after two years in prison.

The 30-year-old Washington, Indiana, man pleaded guilty to two counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death with a controlled substance in his system; seven counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a controlled substance in his body; and a misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle without valid commercial driver's license. Twelve other charges were dropped in the plea agreement.

Authorities have said Allen's 16-passenger van was loaded with 24 people on Sept. 24 when it blew a tire and overturned on Interstate 69 in Gibson County. Many of the passengers were Haitian refugees who were being taken to an Evansville factory.

Two women, 29-year-old Christela Georges and 60-year-old Gena Moise, died from their injuries. Georges was 24 weeks pregnant, and the hospital staff delivered her baby before she died Sept. 25; the infant was released from the hospital in late January.

One investigator described the van as "a death trap," and authorities said three out of the four tires on the vehicle had extreme dry rot. All of the vehicle's middle and rear seats had been replaced by wooden benches in an apparent effort to increase the van's passenger capacity, and there were not enough seat belts.

Separate civil lawsuits filed against Allen on behalf of passengers who were inside the van when it crashed remain pending in Gibson County.

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