Trucker Shopping Online While Driving Sentenced For Fatal Car Crash
A sentence was handed down in Third District Court Monday to a semi-truck driver who was shopping online on his phone when he rear-ended a sedan on U.S. 40 last year. The resulting accident paralyzed the driver of the vehicle and killed the passenger.
The defendant, 38-year-old Nathaniel Bone from Midvale, was sentenced to 120 days in the county jail and three years’ probation.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Patrick Corum said he believed that Bone was genuinely remorseful, and he had cooperated with police and the victims. But he said the jail sentence was warranted and Bone’s case served as an “object lesson” about the hazards of distracted driving.
Bone earlier this year pled Guilty to a third-degree-felony charge of Auto Homicide, Negligence while Operating a Handheld Wireless Device.
The crash took place in the spring of 2017. Bone was driving westbound on U.S. Highway 40 in the Mayflower area, when he hit the sedan, which had stopped for a passing deer. Defense attorney Greg Skordas said his client readily admitted to police that while driving, he had been online shopping for a car for his wife.
“He has told me repeatedly that there’s no way he was going to live with this hanging over him. He did come clean with law enforcement almost immediately after the incident. It’s tragic, it really is. He was driving, it was something that he loved to do, it was something that he made a very good living at, its something that he was proud of. He caused the death of another person. He and his wife have a young child, a young 3-year-old child. Right now, he’s the sole source of support for that family. Although his wife, because of this, went out and got a real-estate license and she’s starting to get into that.”
The attorney added that Bone has sold his house and has moved in with his mother-in-law. Bone does currently have a steady job.
Deputy Prosecutor Ryan Stack asked for Bone to receive 6 months of jail time—in part because Bone had been involved in an accident on I-80 near Tooele in October of 2011, when he fatally struck a pedestrian.
Stack said there were no charges filed in that case, and everyone in court Monday agreed Bone wasn’t culpable, since the accident happened on a dimly-lit road and the pedestrian was wearing dark clothing.
But Judge Corum said that incident should have put the defendant on some extra notice about hazards on the roadway. Ryan Stack said in last year’s crash the sedan was stopped for at least 10 seconds, and Bone could have stopped if he hadn’t been occupied.
“When he was speaking with investigators, he said he didn’t expect to see anybody in front of him and he typically uses his phone when he’s driving commercially when he believes he’s not a danger to anyone. That’s troubling because it reflects this was not an isolated incident but a long-standing practice as he had been driving. He was pulling two double trailers filled with crude oil, essentially turning his car into a battering ram on the freeway by averting his eyes off the road.”
The family members of the fatality, Duchesne resident Landon Peatross, weren’t in court Monday. The paralyzed driver, Sandra Bowden, was ill and also couldn’t be present. But Judge Corum noted that the victims, in their letters to the court, had adopted a dignified, forgiving attitude that was “mind-blowing”.
Nathan Bone spoke briefly to the judge and said he was standing there, accountable.
“This accident, your honor, is a terrible tragedy and I never meant to hurt anybody. I can’t imagine what life is like for Sandra. and this one, I own it.”
Judge Corum said this has been an extraordinarily hard case for everyone.
“When we look at the reasons for imposing a sentence, there are many reasons. One of those is to get people’s attention. I think your attention has been got I don’t doubt that. I don’t think you’re a danger to the community, so I’m not putting you in jail to protect the community. I have no doubt that you will never do this again. I do believe that you are truly remorseful, and this is something that will live with you forever.”
The judge nevertheless, felt he needed to hand down some jail time.
“Again, I know you didn’t mean it. I see people, I know these things. Just on my drive up here this morning I see people doing the same thing. Maybe not to this extent to the degree that it was done in this case, but we see people every day doing these kinds of things. Either putting their make-up on, or they’re eating as they’re driving down the freeway 100 miles an hour or on their cell phone. You unfortunately are just the—this is kind of a trite term I suppose—but the poster child for why we don’t do this. You’re the object lesson, and part of that object lesson is that there is a jail time to be imposed for engaging in this behavior, whether it causes this level of accident or not.”
Judge Patrick Corum added he wants to figure out a way that Bone can serve out portions of his jail sentence and still keep his job. He directed attorney Skordas to come back next week with any options.
A restitution amount could still be set and that could be considerable. Bowden’s private attorney told the court that so far, her medical expenses are about a million dollars.