Court Says Leaving Scene Of Triple Fatal Is 1 Charge, Not 3

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A truck driver who killed three people on an interstate outside Harrisburg can’t be sentenced to three consecutive prison terms for leaving the scene of the crash he caused while driving drunk, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The high court unanimously overturned a county judge’s decision to sentence Jack Edward Satterfield to serve, one after another, the three terms of three to six years.

Satterfield, 32, was hauling a partial load from New Jersey to Wisconsin in October 2018, driving 67 mph (108 kph), when he smashed into several vehicles that were stopped in a construction zone on Interstate 83. He crawled out of his truck through the driver’s side window and was among a crowd of onlookers in a nearby parking lot when police found him.

The crash killed a man and his 16-month-old daughter in one car and a college student in another, and left many others injured, wrote Justice Christine Donohue.

State law “unambiguously provides that the obligation to stop and remain at the scene results solely from the driver’s involvement in the accident, regardless of the number of victims or the severity of their injuries,” Donohue wrote.

Video from the cab of his truck showed Satterfield had been drinking during the drive from New Jersey, the justice recounted. He told police he had a beer and three margaritas with dinner, after which he purchased beer and liquor, Donohue wrote.

Satterfield’s blood alcohol level was found to be 0.15%. The state’s limit for driving is 0.04% for those with a commercial driver’s license who are in their commercial vehicle.

Satterfield pleaded guilty to three counts of homicide by vehicle, three counts of leaving the scene of a fatal accident and other charges. He is serving a 28 1/2- to 63-year sentence at the State Correctional Institution-Forest but will be resentenced.

Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo said it is “unfortunate that the families are going to have to relive this tragedy again at resentencing.” A message seeking comment was left for Satterfield’s public defender.