- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
July accident sent Dunkirk woman plunging into bay
By KATIE FITZPATRICK
The driver of a tractor-trailer that crashed into a car a Dunkirk woman was driving and pushed it 27 feet into the water below from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in July, pleaded guilty last month to four traffic offenses.
Gabor Lovasz, 29, of Canada was charged by the Maryland Transportation Authority Police after the July 19 accident with failure to control speed to avoid a collision, unsafe lane changing, negligent driving and speed greater than reasonable and prudent on the highway after police ruled the primary cause of the crash as distracted driving on the part of Lovasz, the driver of the tractor-trailer.
He pleaded guilty Oct. 18 in Anne Arundel County District Court to all four charges, according to online records. Lovasz was ordered to pay a total fine of $450.
“We’re all very happy that there’s been a guilty plea on the traffic side of the case, and [the accident victim] Morgan [Lake] is happy with that result,” Lake’s attorney, Wayne Cohen of Cohen & Cohen PC, said in a phone interview Wednesday.
When asked whether Lake plans to take any legal action against Lovasz or Bulk Carriers PEI, the company for which he was driving at the time of the accident, Cohen said, “She’s considering all her options … and her focus is just on trying to get herself healed from what she’s been through.”
Lake, 23, told The Calvert Recorder in an earlier interview that at 8:24 p.m. July 19, she was driving her 2007 Chrysler Sebring east across the bridge on her way to Philadelphia when her car was hit by a tractor-trailer.
Lake’s Chrysler went through the toll plaza and was traveling in the right lane behind a 2014 Mazda, driven by Herbert A. Sutcliffe Jr. of Olney. The collision reconstruction report issued by the MDTA states: “For unknown reasons, traffic in front of these two vehicles slowed,” causing the Mazda and Chrysler to slow to speeds well below the posted 40 mph speed limit on the bridge.
A tractor-trailer, driven by Lovasz, went through the toll booth and was in the right lane behind Lake’s vehicle, the report states, and was “accelerating or moving at a constant speed as opposed to other vehicles, which were slowing down.” Lovasz, in the report, said to try to avoid the collision, he swerved to the left lane. Two witnesses identified in the report said they did not see the tractor-trailer’s brake lights until after it hit the Chrysler.
Lovasz indicated to investigators that his attention was directed to his driver’s side mirror due to flashing headlights behind him, according to MDTA officials. When he looked forward again, he said he noticed the vehicles in front of him were stopping, so he tried to steer the tractor-trailer to the left to avoid contact, but struck the left rear of the Chrysler, pushing it up onto the top of the barrier wall.
The tractor-trailer “disengaged” the Chrysler and entered the left lane, but then “veered back” into the right lane. The truck hit the back left portion of the Mazda, causing it to spin nearly 180 degrees and come to a rest in the left lane facing west, the report states.
The tractor-trailer “re-engaged” the Chrysler, and “When the box-trailer made its final contact with [the Chrysler], there was sufficient momentum and force … that this final contact pushed the car over the parapet wall and off of the bridge,” according to the report.
Lake fell 27 feet from the bridge into the water, officials said. The impact of the tractor-trailer hitting the Chrysler had shattered its windows, and once the vehicle entered the bay, water “rushed through” the car windows, causing the vehicle to begin to sink.
Lake was able to escape the vehicle by unbuckling her seat belt and swimming to a nearby bridge pier abutment. The Chrysler “came to a final uncontrolled rest” in about 7 to 9 feet of water, the report states.
Lake was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma in Baltimore, where she was treated for minor injuries, officials said.
Sutcliffe and a passenger in his vehicle were not injured.
MDTA officials said the investigation revealed the Chrysler had slowed to about 4 mph when it was hit by the tractor-trailer. Based on a data download of the tractor-trailer’s engine control module and anti-lock braking system, investigators believe it was traveling between 47 and 51 mph just prior to the crash, officials said. Vehicle inspections indicated no mechanical defects were present at the time of the inspections following the crash.
Officials said Lovasz had emigrated from Hungary to Canada as part of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program. Lovasz obtained his commercial driver’s license in April while employed by the program, and then began working for Bulk Carriers PEI, according to the report. On July 17, he was “paired with an experienced Bulk Carrier driver,” and they drove to Massachusetts, at which point the “experienced driver” left Lovasz with the tractor-trailer to drive to Virginia and then to Rhodesdale, which took him over the Bay Bridge, the report states.