The semitrailer driver had his eyes on his cell phone for the eight seconds preceding the crash Tuesday in Lake Elmo, according to charges filed Wednesday in Washington County.
Investigators say 28-year-old Samuel Wayne Hicks of Independence, Wisconsin, made no effort to brake before striking the vehicle – which was at a complete stop at the intersection of Highway 36 and Lake Elmo Avenue – at a speed of 63 miles per hour, according to the citing footage from a camera on the semi.
Hicks now faces one count of criminal vehicular homicide, a felony carrying a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or $20,000 in fines.
The man who was killed in the crash was the 54-year-old business owner and biology instructor Robert Bursik of Amery, Wisconsin. Investigators say Bursik’s vehicle was damaged beyond recognition in the crash, and only later determined to be a 2015 Toyota Scion.
According to the charging document, Hicks told investigators he had been driving since about 4:45 a.m. Tuesday. He was familiar with the highway, which he said he drove once a week.
He was eastbound on Highway 36 before the crash, which occurred shortly before 12:15 p.m. Hicks initially told a state patrol investigator he had noticed the light at Lake Elmo Avenue was green from a distance, became distracted by another vehicle, and turned to look, according to the complaint.
When he turned back, he struck Bursik’s vehicle, he told the investigator.
The complaint says, he admitted his cell phone had been in his right hand, and that he’d been texting his girlfriend on and off along the highway.
The state patrol was later provided video from a camera mounted on the semi that showed on a split screen footage from both a forward-facing and a rear-facing lens.
The rear-facing lens showed the inside of the cab, and the forward-facing lens showed the road ahead.
Bursik’s vehicle was at a complete stop at the red light with brake lights illuminated, the camera footage showed, the complaint says.
Hicks was treated by medics at the scene and released. He was charged on a warrant and is not in custody.
The eastbound lanes of Highway 36 were closed, and traffic was rerouted near the scene of the crash until about 4:30 p.m.