“Distracted” Trucker Surrenders, Police Say Was On Cellphone Before Fatal Crash
Berks County, Pennsylvania – A truck driver police say was on his cellphone in the moments leading up to a fatal fiery crash last year, that killed a New Jersey couple on their way to be married, has turned himself in to law enforcement.
24-year-old Jaspreet S. Chahal of Fresno, CA, surrendered to authorities on Thursday.
Chahal was charged last week with homicide by vehicle, careless driving resulting in death, operating a hand-held mobile telephone and related traffic counts, stemming from a November 14, 2018 crash.
Authorities had expressed concern that Chahal may not willingly turn himself in to face the charges.
Following his surrender on Thursday, Chahal pleaded not guilty and waived his preliminary hearing.
“He’s very distraught about what happened, very remorseful of what happened to the people because he’s 24, and the people who were killed were two young people on the way to be married and weren’t much older,” said Chahal’s attorney, Michael Applebaum.
According to investigators, Chahal was operating westbound along Interstate 78 when he failed to slow for stopped traffic and rear-ended an SUV occupied by 42-year-old Joseph Kearney and 35-year-old Kathryn Schurtz, of Jersey City.
The couple’s 4-wheeler was pushed under the trailer of a second tractor-trailer setting off a chain reaction crash which involved 5 big rigs.
Kearney and Schurtz were both pronounced dead on the scene.
Investigators later obtained a warrant for Chahal’s phone records which allegedly proved he was on his cellphone at the time of the crash.
Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams called the accident “horrific.”
Adams said the evidence proves Chahal “never braked before impacting vehicles ahead of him, which makes the facts of this case extremely egregious.”
“We need to determine who caused the accident,” Applebaum said on Thursday. “There’s no question it was his truck that caused the chain-reaction that caused the unfortunate, untimely death of two beautiful young people, but we believe that there may be reasons that would be a defense to the charges that he’s charged with. Today is not the day to talk about that.”
Transportation Nation Network will continue to follow the story.
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