Trucker Charged In Fiery Fatal Crash After Police Say He Was On His Cellphone

Berks County, Pennsylvania – Police say a truck driver was distracted and talking on his cellphone in the moments leading up to a fiery fatal crash along Interstate 78 last November that took the lives of a New Jersey couple engaged to be married.

After a 7-month investigation, authorities have charged 24-year-old Fresno, CA, truck driver Jaspreet S. Chahal with homicide by vehicle, careless driving resulting in death, operating a hand-held mobile telephone and related traffic counts.

The accident happened on November 14, 2018 at approximately 2:37 p.m. in an active work zone at mile marker 32.3 near Hamburg, Pennsylvania.


According to investigators, Chahal was operating westbound when he failed to slow for stopped traffic and rear-ended an SUV occupied by 42-year-old Joseph Kearney and 35-year-old Kathryn Schurtz of Jersey City.

The couple’s 4-wheeler was pushed under the trailer of a second tractor-trailer setting off a chain reaction crash which involved 5 big rigs.

Kearney and Schurtz were pronounced dead on the scene.

42-year-old Joseph Kearney and 35-year-old Kathryn Schurtz of Jersey City, NJ were killed in a fiery chain reaction semi-crash while en route to Pittsburgh to be married.

The couple was en route to their wedding in Pittsburgh at the time of the crash.

Three truck drivers were also injured and taken to local hospitals for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Court documents state Chahal passed by two orange “Road Work Ahead” signs 2 miles ahead of the work zone and an electronic message board about 1.5 miles before an upcoming lane restriction.

Shortly after the crash, the Berks County 9-1-1 center contacted authorities and notified them that a woman identifying herself as Chahal’s sister called asking about her brother.


She said she was on the phone with Chahal when she heard a commotion and was disconnected.

Investigators obtained a warrant for the phone records which proved Chahal was on his cellphone at the time of the crash.

Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams called the accident “horrific.”

Adams said the evidence proves Chahal “never braked before impacting vehicles ahead of him, which makes the facts of this case extremely egregious.”

Authorities also expressed concern that Chahal would not willingly turn himself in.

In fact, Adams indicated a search for Chahal may be a prolonged one.

“We have to find him,” Adams said. “That is our main goal at this point.”

Transportation Nation Network will continue to follow any new developments in this story.

(Featured image courtesy of Reading Eagle/Facebook)




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