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Posted April 19, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Truck driver in dual fatality accident sentenced to four months

By Joe Beck

A tractor-trailer driver involved in a fiery crash that killed two people on Interstate 81 in early October pleaded no contest Tuesday to reckless driving by operating with improper brakes, and texting while driving.

General District Court Judge David S. Whitacre sentenced Lance W. Anderson to four months in jail, part of a 360-day jail term, 240 of which were suspended. Whitacre also sentenced Anderson to two years unsupervised probation and fined him $2,500.

Whitacre gave Anderson, 44, of Hudson S.D., until April 30 to report to jail to begin serving his sentence.

The accident killed Heather Lee Santor, 39, and Acoye Marcouis Breckenridge, 18, both of Staunton, on Oct. 5.

Santor and Breckenridge were in a 1998 Jeep that was stopped in a highway construction zone when Anderson's 2007 Peterbilt tractor-trailer smashed into the back of the smaller vehicle. The impact sent the Jeep into the rear of PT Cruiser ahead of it.

The occupants of the PT Cruiser survived uninjured, but the Jeep exploded into flames. One passenger in the Jeep, Zackary Santor, was pulled free of the wreckage by an occupant from the PT Cruiser, but Heather Santor and Breckenridge were unable to escape.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis J. McLoughlin said in an interview Thursday that he asked for a one-year jail sentence. McLoughlin said there was not enough evidence to charge Anderson with a more serious crime such as manslaughter.

McLoughlin said state police recovered Anderson's cell phone and were able to determine that he had been sending text messages shortly before the accident, but were uncertain whether he was doing so at the time of the crash.

"I think the results of the crash were horrible," McLoughlin said. "It doesn't get much worse than that, but we wouldn't have been able to show his behavior rose to the level of a felony, given the facts we had."

McLoughlin said Anderson's driving record shows several violations in the last three years, but he couldn't recall the details.

"He definitely did not have a pristine record by any means," McLoughlin said of Anderson.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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