Even after a federal agency deemed him an “imminent hazard” and banned him from interstate driving, the truck driver who plowed into a Mesa home – killing one resident and sending two others to the hospital – has not been charged with any crimes.
Todd Welliver and his fiancee, Ginger Mcdonald, were sitting in the garage of their Mesa home, talking about an upcoming vacation.
It was New Year’s Eve. Instead of going out on the town, they decided to stay in – and stay safe. So, they thought.
“We were going to go out to dinner with a friend, but we canceled and were just hanging out at the house,” Mcdonald said.
Their lives would change in an instant, as Daniel Tobon – who left Riverside, California hours before – missed the Interstate 10 exit from the 202 eastbound. Looking for a way to get back to the I-10, he took the Crimson Road exit.
At 6:59 p.m., all hell broke loose.
Tobon’s 18-wheel truck crossed over a center curb, struck a signal pole and plowed through a red light, smashing through a masonry block wall before rumbling into a home at 10024 East Isleta Ave.
A dozen people were in the home.
“I don’t remember a lot,” Mcdonald said. “I remember we were sitting there talking. I remember hearing a bang and then stuff falling on me. Then I don’t remember any stuff that happened after that until I was pulled out of the garage.
“And I remember talking to Todd. He was laying in the driveway.”
In the commotion of screaming and sirens, the two were able to communicate one final time.
“He responded to me, I got to talk to him for a couple seconds,” Mcdonald said. “I asked him, ‘Baby, are you OK?’ He looked up at me, like he was making sure I was OK. Then he said, ‘I can’t breathe.’
“I was screaming for someone to help but I guess the paramedics were there because they pulled me away and started working on me.”
Welliver, 50, died at the hospital. Mcdonald and a child were taken to the hospital where they were treated for serious injuries.
Tobon was also taken to the hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries before being released.
He has not been charged with any driving offenses by Mesa Police.
Three months later, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration declared Tobon – who also went by Daniel Moran and Daniel Tobon – is “an imminent hazard to public safety.”
According to the police report, Tobon told Officer Miranda Dewitt he had not been drinking and briefly answered questions as he was being loaded into an ambulance.
“At this point Daniel began to become unresponsive and was not answering any questions. Daniel was given a blood sugar test which showed a level of 60 – indicating possible hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar,” the report reads.
“Daniel was then given an IV and seemed to react after a few minutes and was able to start answering questions. Daniel claimed that he was diabetic and that he took medication daily (metforim-500mg). I rode inside the ambulance as Daniel was taken to Banner Desert Hospital for treatment,” Dewitt wrote.
“During my contact with Daniel at the hospital, he did not seem to know what had happened or what caused the accident. Daniel stated that he had not been feeling ill or tired and had not used any drugs or alcohol,” Dewitt continued.
“Daniel stated that he had taken his diabetes medication that morning and had drank some chocolate milk and had a granola bar while he was driving.”
Tobon was ordered “not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.”
Federal “investigators found that in September 2020, Tobon had fraudulently certified his USDOT/FMCSA medical examination report form; he also fraudulently certified the form previously in September 2018,” a USDOT press release stated, noting the medical certification process “is designed to ensure CDL holders are physically qualified to operate commercial vehicles safely.”
Each driver is required to complete a health history section and certify that the responses are complete and true.
Providing “inaccurate, false or misleading information may invalidate the examination and medical examiner’s certificate,” federal authorities note, and could even lead to civil penalties.
The March 9 federal imminent hazard order told Tobon his “continued operation of a commercial motor vehicle while medically unqualified poses a significant danger to you and the motoring public.”
Tobon may not operate a commercial motor vehicle until he completes a return-to-duty process that includes obtaining a valid medical certification issued by a certified medical examiner.
According to the Department of Transportation, “The crash report prepared by the Mesa Police Department noted it appeared Tobon made no evasive driving maneuver to avoid the crash, adding one of the possible influencing conditions for the crash was ‘illness or physical impairment.’”
Chaos and death
According to a Mesa Police report, “A semi-tractor with a loaded trailer exited US 60 eastbound at Crismon Road, went through a red light, ran over the center curb, went off the roadway on the southeast corner.
“The combination vehicle then struck a City of Mesa signal pole, a masonry block wall owned by an HOA, went through landscaping and struck the residence of 10024 East Isleta Ave. in Mesa.
“As a result of the collision with the residence, one person is deceased, two more have serious physical injuries, two vehicles parked in the garage were damaged and the residence was destroyed.”
One of the first officers on the scene summarized the chaos:
“Catastrophic damage to the lower level of the townhouse made the structural integrity of the remains of the building highly questionable. Rubble and debris were piled up around the truck … Many people were walking around and it was initially unclear who had been in the building and who were neighbors.
“A man lay on his back on the ground just south of the sedan with Officer Dewitt standing next to him. A bystander told me that this was the driver of the semi-truck. He was conscious and was laying in a position with his hands behind his head as if he was about to perform stomach crunches.
“A Mesa Police Officer and a DPS Trooper were attempting to revive a man later identified as Todd Michael Welliver. Welliver was lying on the ground on the north side of the truck and was completely unresponsive. A few people were crying and speaking of Welliver, calling him by name.”
He noted Mcdonald “was crying and dazed.”
The officer said he was told by Bonnie Waldherr “that Mcdonald had been buried in rubble in the kitchen and had been unable to move until she had been pulled out.”
He noted that Waldherr herself “had drying trickles of blood down her face from her hair.”
Waldherr’s grandson Austin Foltz, “was dazed and lethargic. He had bruises and scrapes on his shirtless upper body,” the officer reported, adding:
“He told me that he did not know what had hit him and it hurt to move. Waldherr and Foltz both told me that they had been in the living room when the crash had happened. Bonnie Waldherr described the situation briefly, telling me that the home had exploded around them.”
Neighbor Taylor Ervin told police he and another man helped him get the truck driver out of the cab.
“Ervin told me that the driver had struggled against them as they had tried to get him out of the truck cab, saying, ‘No,’ and fumbling with items inside the cab, possibly trying to hide something in the cab,” the police report states. “Ervin told me that they had needed to wrest the driver’s grip from the steering wheel to get him out of the cab.”
Michael Calabrese told police he saw the truck barreling down the freeway off ramp “at approximately 60 miles per hour” and that the driver never slowed for a signal at the end of the exit ramp.
Another witness told police Tobon nearly wrecked on the highway: “Officer Kennedy said the witness began to see the 18-wheeler swerving from one side of the eastbound San Tan 202 to the other at Val Vista Drive.”
Kennedy said the witness followed the 18-wheeler eastbound and then onto the eastbound US 60 on ramp and that it almost struck a median barrier several times and was “traveling 70 miles an hour while taking the Crismon Road off ramp.”
In her report, Dewitt wrote Tobon told her that “his neck, arm and back were hurting.
“I did not see any major visible injuries besides what appeared to be some small minor scratches/abrasions to his face, neck, hands and arms,” Dewitt said, adding Tobon “thought someone had hit/bumped him with a car which caused him to crash into the wall.”
“I’m usually pretty happy, ‘It’ll be OK’ kind of outlook,” Mcdonald said, three months after losing her finance. “Now, I’m just like the opposite … It’s been hard.”
She said she and Todd’s family only recently received the detailed police report.
“Hopefully, he’ll be charged soon,” she said, of Tobon.
“Even though it was a medical emergency, he was driving illegally. And he did kill someone and injure me and someone else … Yes, I would like to see him being charged.”
She said 10 people in an extended family lived in the house for two and a half years.
They all had to relocate. “We are not allowed back into the house.”
Meanwhile, she slowly recovers from various injuries: “I’m still in treatment. I probably will be for a long time.”
She noted her physical and emotional recovery has been boosted by “a lot of love and support from Todd’s family in Illinois.”
She met him through a mutual friend six years ago, shortly after he moved to Arizona. “We were friends first. We were both seeing other people.”
Mcdonald said Todd, who worked as a machinist in Tempe, loved to make her laugh and had a big heart.
“He had a good sense of humor. He was a good guy. He would do anything for “
Indeed, her lasting memory is his craning his neck to find her, moments before he would die.
“He was more worried about me.”