July 09, 2020

Attorney general to review probe of fatal crash

PORTLAND — The state attorney general said he will decide within two weeks whether to present the case of the driver of a tractor-trailer truck that crushed a disabled car, killing four teen-agers, to a new grand jury.

Attorney General Michael Carpenter said Wednesday he is reviewing the case at the request of the victims’ parents, not because he’s concerned about the thoroughness of the district attorney.

If new evidence or improprieties are found, the case could be returned to a second grand jury, he said. If not, the case is closed.

The truck driver, Robert Hornbarger of Pennsylvania, was cleared of manslaughter charges by a grand jury in December. He was charged only with falsifying his logbook.

The decision sparked an outcry from the teen-agers’ parents and others who could not understand how Hornbarger avoided criminal charges.

The parents of 17-year-old Jeffrey Izer say they don’t understand how Hornbarger can simply walk away after killing their son.

The man still has his driver’s license, said Daphne Izer. “If we could have our day in court, we’d feel a lot better,” she said.

The Izers and two other families met with Carpenter to urge him to reopen the case. Knowing that Hornbarger is held accountable will go a long way in helping the families to heal, said Steve Izer.

“There’s a 122-page police report and there’s not one statement of remorse by him,” he said.

“I’d like to look the man in the eye and see what kind of person killed my son,” he added.

Police say the truck driver never touched his brakes or tried to swerve, leading to speculation he dozed off just before his truck slammed into the carload of teens on the Maine Turnpike in Falmouth.

Four teens were killed. One survived.

Hornbarger had been driving about nine hours straight when he struck the car, which was stopped in the breakdown lane with its lights on. Federal regulations require truck drivers to rest eight hours for every 10 hours on the road.

Carpenter said his review does not mean he believes the district attorney did anything wrong.

“I am not faulting the DA’s office at all,” he said. “This was an extensive, lengthy presentation (to the grand jury) by a very competent assistant DA and that’s all I know at this point.”

Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson said she welcomes Carpenter’s probe.

“We have parents whose children were killed and if they can get some assurances … that the case was handled properly, and they can feel better, then I approve of that,” she said.

Carpenter and Anderson have received letters and telephone calls from the parents of the dead children and others with questions and concerns. Carpenter met with four of the parents last week.

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