A former tractor-trailer driver who fatally struck a Falmouth couple in January 2021 has been accused of streaming Netflix when the crash occurred, court records show.
David E. Herring of South Portland, 40, is charged with two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of Geoff and Elizabeth Gattis, both 68, of Falmouth. On their way home from Massachusetts, Herring crashed into the Gattis’ vehicle after he failed to stop slowing traffic near the Kittery-York town line, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Court documents show that Herring was watching a Netflix show about teenage magicians on his cellphone, although his attorney Rob Andrews said the crash had nothing to do with his Netflix streaming, the newspaper reported.
Prior to the crash, Herring was distracted by another vehicle that slowed down and veered off of the highway, and when he looked up, it was too late to slow down, Andrews told the paper. Herring was driving for K and E Trucking of West Newfield.
In July of 2021, Herring was indicted and pleaded not guilty on his first court date, however in order to win the conviction, prosecutors will have to prove Herring caused the deaths recklessly or with criminal negligence.
“Not every accident that occurs where someone dies or is really hurt is a crime,” Andrews told the Press Herald. “There is a difference between civil negligence and criminal negligence.”
Prosecutors have already offered Herring a plea deal which included him being sentenced for 10 out of 15 years in prison, but later rejected the offer as the trial began, according to the Press Herald.
Unfortunately, this is not Herring’s first crash. He was cited in 2019 for cellphone use while driving and caused multiple crashes in 2004, 2009, 2015 and 2019.
Since the crash, the Gattis family has settled out of court without a lawsuit with K and E Trucking, Robert Kelley, an attorney for the Gattis family, told the Press Herald.”
There’s no word on how much the settlement cost.
Geoff Gattis retired in 2018 as executive vice president of Bath Savings Institution. Betsy Gattis was a longtime copy editor and page designer at the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram. She also retired in 2018, after 37 years with the newspaper.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated where the Gattises lived and where they were driving from when the crash occurred.