On January 13, 2014, at the westbound toll plaza on I-78, just west of the New Jersey/Pennsylvania Bridge, a Shop-Rite tractor-trailer ran over a car, who was paying a toll. Monday, the judge sentenced the truck driver to 4.5 – 9 years in jail for homicide by vehicle.
The investigation established that the truck driver, Robert W. Gawne, fell asleep when he smashed into the car, driven by Daniel C. Murphy. Investigators estimated Gawne was going 57 to 74 mph when he ran over Murphy. Here is a link to an article on the accident at LehighValleyLive. There are dozens of graphic photos at the link.
Here are some things from the Morning Call article I found interesting. This idiot truck driver sits in court Monday, and falls asleep! I mean, you can’t make this stuff up! To defense counsel Christopher Shipman, who was representing Gawne: dude, I feel your pain. Here you are, busting your butt, doing your best to save your client’s rear-end, and your client won’t even take the most basic steps to save himself. You know, like not falling asleep in front of the judge and jury. This is straight out of “Better Call Saul”. The guy falls asleep in court. Do you think he fell asleep when he killed Mr. Murphy, members of the jury? Maybe. Just maybe.
It appears as if Mr. Gawne is a real scumbag. According to the Pennsylvania Criminal Dockets website, about 12 – 15 years ago, Gawne was convicted twice of theft, and once for sexual assault. They originally charged him with rape, but dismissed that, and he pled no contest to sexual assault. He was sentenced to 6 – 12 years for the sexual assault. What is up with that? We just had another horrific truck crash near here, on US 222 north of Reading, where the truck driver fell asleep, ran over people, killing 2, and was a convicted sex offender. This is my theory which I keep coming back to. No one wants to be a truck driver, for many legitimate reasons, so we just keep hiring the absolute bottom of the barrel, like Gawne.
Finally, I categorized this post under “Hours of Service”, although I don’t think that title entirely fits. I have no doubt Gawne was completely legal when this crash occurred. Otherwise, that would have been part of the charges the State made against Gawne. Fatigue is not necessarily something that occurs only when your hours of service expires. It can happen any time. If you’re getting sleepy, don’t be this guy. Don’t be a jerk. Pull over, take a nap. Your boss will understand. Ok, I will rephrase. Your boss should understand. It is better to get you and your freight there in one piece, rather than be on the front page of the newspaper, because you flattened some poor guy who was just going to work.