A truck driver convicted in the death of six people at the Ooltewah exit of I-75 has been sentenced to serve 55 years in state prison.
Criminal Court Judge Don Poole handed the sentence to 42-year-old Benjamin Scott Brewer.
He gave him 11 years on each of six vehicular homicide cases and ran five of the cases consecutively. The range was 8-12 years for vehicular homicide.
Brewer, of London, Ky., was also sentenced to four years on each of four convictions of reckless aggravated assault involving four people who were injured in the 2015 crash. Those sentences are concurrent.
He has no prior criminal convictions so is a Range One Offender who is eligible for parole consideration after serving 30 percent of the sentence.
Brewer made a statement, saying he is remorseful and prays several times each day for the victims' families.
He said, "I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart. There are now words to express my sorrow."
Brewer, who has an eight-year-old daughter, said he prays for the families two or three times a day. He said he is especially remorseful for the two young girls who died along with their mother and grandmother in a car that caught fire.
He said of the families, "I hope they will accept my deepest apology."
Brewer said he has asked God for forgiveness, and he said he was responsible for taking the lives and inflicting injuries on others.
Judge Poole called it "an unbelievably horrible wreck" and said it was testified that Brewer was driving unsafely on I-75 in Georgia before entering Tennessee. He said there was a half-mile sight distance looking toward where a line of vehicles were stopped for a construction project.
He said Brewer did not apply the brakes at any point and left a 453-foot trail of "destruction."
Judge Poole said he read all of the numerous victim impact statements that were submitted.
Killed were well-known Cleveland musician Brian Gallaher and Dalton State assistant director of residential life Jason Ramos. Also killed were Tiffany Watts, her mother Sandra Anderson, and daughters Kelsie and Savannah.
A representative of state probation said Brewer has an active warrant from Wisconsin on a drug charge and a prior meth count in Kentucky that was dismissed.
He said he suffers from depression and anxiety. Brewer declined to answer questions relating to prior drug use based on advice of his attorneys.
He worked for seven years with a car dealership, then was in construction and drover for Ryder before joining Cool Runnings just prior to the deadly wreck.
District Attorney General Neal Pinkston had asked for consecutive sentences, while Jay Underwood of the public defender's office argued against any consecutive terms. He said it was "not an intentional act, but a reckless accident."
He said of Brewer, "He's never tried to hurt anybody."
Etta Faye Brewer, aunt of the defendant, said, "I'm proud to say that Ben Brewer is my nephew." She said he was raised in a good home, attended church and played Little League baseball.
She described him as quiet with "a good heart."
The aunt said Brewer is "a good man."
She said she prays for him as well as the victims.
Lt. John Harmon of the Highway Patrol said it was found that Brewer was falsifying his driver logs.
He said, counting the Ooltewah crash, in the last two and a half years there have been five wrecks involving commercial vehicles within 50 miles of Chattanooga that have claimed 13 lives. He said that does not count the Woodmore bus wreck.