A Minnesota commercial truck driver with a history of sleep apnea crashes and violations has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty in December to a felony charge of criminal vehicular homicide.
John Ray Carpenter, a commercial truck driver and the owner-operator of a Hibbing, Minn.-based septic services company, fell asleep behind the wheel of his truck in Oct. 2015, causing him to cross the center line into the path of an oncoming car.
The resulting collision killed 31-year-old Andrew Johnson, who was working for the city of Silver Bay, Minnesota when he was struck by Mr. Carpenter’s truck.
But even before the deadly crash, Mr. Carpenter had an astonishing record of crashes and safety violations because of his sleep apnea. He was even under a no-drive order from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) when he blacked out and collided with Mr. Johnson’s vehicle.
According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Lake County prosecutor Lisa Hanson detailed Mr. Carpenter’s driving history in court – a record that included multiple rollovers, numerous citations for safety violations, several crashes, and a dismal FMCSA inspection report that resulted in the agency deeming him a threat to public safety and ordering him off the road just two months before the deadly crash.
“Carpenter, who was known to black out at the wheel and once previously had his driving privileges suspended, accumulated 73 federal violations in the August 2015 inspection,” the Pioneer Press reported. He drove too many hours, exceeding federal anti-fatigue hours-of-service (HOS) rules, then falsified log books. He also lied to doctors and concealed crashes from his insurer.
“Mr. Carpenter placed the interests of his business ahead of his own safety and, more important, the safety of the public,” Ms. Hansen told District Judge Eric Hylden. “He was playing Russian roulette every time he got behind the wheel.” She also warned the court that “Mr. Carpenter simply is not going to stop driving unless he is locked up.”
Despite the defendant’s plea for leniency, Judge Hylden hit Mr. Carpenter with the maximum sentence under the terms of the plea agreement in addition to a $5,000 fine.
“You haven’t stopped driving,” the judge said, according to the Pioneer Press. “That frankly just floors me.”
Mr. Carpenter expressed remorse over his actions and asked the judge for probation.
“I did not realize the extent and breadth of my past driving conduct until it was laid in front of me,” he said, according to the Pioneer Press. “I continue to have a difficult time coming to grips with what I did, and it is horrifying.”
But Judge Hylden denied him a lighter sentence, saying “I’m worried that if I put you on probation, you will just keep driving.”