Tractor-Trailer Driver Charged in Bay Bridge Crash That Forced Car Into Water | NBC4 Washington

Tractor-Trailer Driver Charged in Bay Bridge Crash That Forced Car Into Water

Driver was on his first trip in the U.S. without a more experienced operator



    (Published Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013)

    The driver of a tractor-trailer has been charged in a Maryland crash that sent another vehicle plunging into the water of the Chesapeake Bay in July.

    That crash sent a car driven by 22-year-old Morgan Lake over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge's barrier wall, off the bridge and into the bay, 27 feet below. Lake had to escape from her car and crawl up nearby rocks before she was rescued.

    "Everything around me exploded," said Lake, who suffered minor injuries. "Glass everywhere, airbag in my face and I felt that this was it."

    "The longest part was under the water, because I had time to think I was going to die and the time to process, to change my mind and to stop fighting and to relax my body and unbuckle my seat belt to swim out," she said.

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    The truck driver, Gabor Lovasz, is charged with driving at a speed greater than reasonable, negligent driving, failure to control a vehicle and making an unsafe lane change, authorities announced Thursday.

    The charges carry a total of almost $600 in fines.

    Distracted driving was the cause of the July 19 crash, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) said in a release Thursday.

    Lovasz told authorities that immediately before the accident, he looked at the driver's side mirror because of lights and sounds behind him. When he looked back to the road, traffic had stopped. He attempted to veer left but couldn't avoid hitting Lake's Chrysler Sebring and a Mazda SUV, he told authorities.

    Lake was driving only about 4 mph when the impact forced her car onto the railing of the bridge, according to Thursday's report. A second impact from the truck sent it over the edge.

    Lovasz, 29, and the driver of the SUV were not hurt. The preliminary report said no mechanical defects were found in any of the vehicles involved.

    Data downloaded from the truck indicate it was traveling between 47 and 51 mph shortly before the crash.

    Lovasz was on his first trip in the U.S. without a more experienced operator, authorities said. He was driving the tractor-trailer for Bulk Carriers PEI Limited of Prince Edward Island, Canada, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

    Officials said Lovasz, who had emigrated from Hungary to Canada, had worked with the company since April. At the time of the crash, he had just made a delivery in Orange, Va., and was en route to pick up another load in Maryland.

    The MDTA's report references an April 2013 crash in the same location on the eastbound span. In that crash, a vehicle came to rest on the barrier wall.

    "Both the April and July crashes were a direct result of distracted driving," said MDTA Police Chief Col. Michael Kundrat in a release. "With two similar incidents over the last few months, we are taking a closer look at this area of the bridge to evaluate what can be done to enhance safety."

    Authorities are considering flashing "Congestion Ahead" signs, requiring headlight use in two-way traffic and extra rumble strips.

    The NTSB is also looking into the accident to determine whether there are any nationwide safety issues involved in the crash. AAA Mid-Atlantic and Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski had called for a federal investigation into the bridge's safety.

    While the NTSB issued a preliminary report earlier this month, the timeframe for the release of a final report has not been determined.

    The NTSB also investigated a 2008 crash on the bridge in which a tractor-trailer crashed through a concrete barrier and plunged into the bay, killing the driver. After that accident, some concrete barriers were upgraded.