LANCASTER, NY-- A truck driver from Ballston Spa is accused of using a cell phone, shopping online, and completing a survey when he hit a car on the NYS Thruway.
Kristofer M. Gregorek, 27, was driving a box truck on June 8 on the I-90WB in Lancaster when he allegedly rear-ended a vehicle driven by Ellen M. Volpe, 45, of Rochester.
Volpe died at the scene. A third driver involved in the accident was taken to the hospital, but was expected to be ok.
Gregorek is charged with manslaughter and was arraigned in Lancaster Town Court Thursday night. He pleaded not guilty to second degree manslaughter.
New York State Police say Gregorek has been very cooperative, but they also want to make sure you know how dangerous it is to use your phone while driving.
"I believe that a lot of people, when they operate a vehicle, they don't think anything's gonna happen to them. So, they're gonna check that text, they're gonna make that phone call, they may even shop while they drive, and they don't understand how dangerous that truly is. And here we are after a fatal collision when those devices were used while someone was driving, and now someone's being charged with manslaughter second," says NYS Trooper James O'Callaghan.
Local attorney Barry Covert says the district attorney is sending a strong message to the public by charging Gregorek with manslaughter instead of vehicular manslaughter, which is a lower level offense.
"The district attorney here has said basically where you're concentrating that much on the phone as opposed to the road, you are aware of the fact that you are engaging in reckless activity, and because you're engaging in that reckless activity, you're aware of the consequences of your conduct, and that conduct has resulted in someone's death. The district attorney here has decided he's gonna charge it as manslaughter in the second degree, which is an incredibly serious offense," says Covert.
Gregorek faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. His bail was set at $5,000 cash.