The driver of a tractor-trailer that collided with a car on the Bay Bridge in July, sending the car and its 23-year-old driver over a barrier and into the water below, has been charged with four traffic violations, Maryland Transportation Authority Police announced Thursday.
The announcement came as welcome news to the family of Morgan Jade Lake of Sunderland, the driver of the vehicle sent into the water.
"I am relieved that at least there are some charges," said Melani Lake, her mother. "As a mother, we're still living that nightmare. I'm still trying to get my daughter whole."
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Chesapeake Bay Bridge, MD, USA
Morgan Lake still has doctors' appointments ahead of her, her mother said, declining to say for what.
She also has "a long road to recovery mentally," her mother said, and is still unwilling to get back behind the wheel.
Gabor Lovasz, 29, a Hungarian immigrant living in Canada through that country's Temporary Foreign Worker program, was on his first trip driving in the United States alone when he became distracted and caused the collision, police said.
Authority police also released an extensive collision reconstruction report Thursday outlining in detail how the crash occurred after Lovasz's truck, traveling between 47 mph and 51 mph, struck Lake's Chrysler Sebring, which was traveling about 4 mph in front of him at 8:24 p.m. July 19.
Lovasz also struck a Mazda CX-5 driven by Herb Sutcliffe, 65, of Olney. Lisa Sutcliffe, 58, his wife, was in the passenger seat. Neither was badly injured, but Lisa Sutcliffe said Thursday she still suffers from occasional shoulder aches.
She's driving again, but hasn't "attempted the bridge" yet and is "certainly cautious" whenever tractor-trailers approach her vehicle, she said.
She also replays that night on the bridge occasionally in her head.
"I see this great big 18-wheeler just … totally clueless that everybody was stopped ahead," she said. "I couldn't believe his speed. His speed was just the most terrifying thing."
She still can't believe she survived, she said. She credits that in part to her husband and his quick reactions behind the wheel once their SUV was struck.
"He was a go-kart racer in high school, so he knew exactly how to control a wipeout," she said.
Immediately after the crash, Sutcliffe said, she "couldn't understand why nobody was coming to assist" her and her husband. When she realized another crash victim had gone off the bridge, she was "stunned," she said.
Lake had it the worst. After her car hit the water, she was able to free herself from her seat belt, swim to the surface and reach rocks of a nearby abutment, the MdTA said. She was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where she was treated for minor injuries.
Lake recounted the crash in a statement to the MdTA, which was included in the report released Thursday.
"Glass broke everywhere, air bags went off," she wrote. The car flipped on its side, then over the rail. Lake knew she was going over. Before she could finish screaming, water was above her head. She struggled with the seat belt until it finally came loose.
When she realized her driver's side window was missing, she got out and swam for the surface.
"I told myself I was going to die," she said.
The MdTA report ruled that the accident was caused solely by Lovasz. In his statement, Lovasz told investigators he had been looking in his driver's side mirror just before the crash and had tried to avoid a collision but couldn't. He gave the statement in Hungarian.