U.S. News

Pennsylvania trucker distracted by football game charged in motorcyclist death: police

MT. HOLLY SPRINGS, Pa. (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania trucker who struck and killed a motorcyclist while the truck driver allegedly watched a football game on his cellphone was charged with homicide by vehicle, police said.

An eight-month state police investigation resulted in criminal charges this week against Kevin Souriyavong, 34, in the death of John Baum, 56, a cancer and liver transplant survivor, and serious injury of his motorcycle passenger, Baum’s sister, Lori Radnor, 58.

Souriyavong of Chambersburg declined to comment to Reuters and his lawyer could not be reached.

Souriyavong had been sending and receiving text messages throughout his drive that day, police said, in violation of state law. In one of them, he made a $50 bet on the game he was watching.

The United States in recent years has seen the world’s biggest increase in traffic deaths, mostly due to distracted driving, according to a 2018 study of 29 nations by the International Transport Forum, a transportation think tank.

In the Pennsylvania case, it was a distracted driver watching a cell phone video stream, specifically the Oct. 15, 2017, game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs.

Souriyavong was driving a tractor-trailer loaded with disposable diapers on Oct. 16 around 3 a.m. when he struck the rear of Baum’s motorcycle on Interstate 81 near Carlisle, killing the biker, who was from Walnut Bottom, and injuring his passenger, who was from Biglerville.

Souriyavong told investigators that before the crash he saw Baum’s motorcycle in the distance but did not think he was close. He admitted to looking away from the road but denied he was watching his cellphone.

But after investigators obtained the driver monitoring video from the trucking company and examined Souriyavong’s cellphone, a different story emerged, according to authorities.

Investigators said they discovered he had been watching the game. They could see the reflection of the phone on the windshield and hear the excitement of the game announcer after Kansas City made a crucial play.

“At this very moment during the play of the football game, Souriyavong’s vehicle strikes the motorcycle,” Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Jacob Fackler said in court documents.

Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Osterman