The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 19, 2013

Jury clears truck driver in teen’s traffic death

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY — There is a school of thought that, when someone dies in a traffic accident, someone should be put in jail, said Blair H. Hindman, a defense attorney.

However, there are times when someone dies in an accident as the result of an incident that was truly an accident, he said.

Such was the case the Jeffrey C. Brink, 59, Smicksburg, Pa., who was charged in the traffic death of 17-year-old James Saxion of Hempfield Township on Aug. 29, 2010, said Hindman, of Linesville.

“It was just really an accident,” Hindman said Thursday, the day a jury found Brink not guilty of homicide by vehicle and aggravated assault, and guilty of failing to stop at a stop sign, a crime for which he was fined $25 and costs.

District Attorney Robert G. Kochems confirmed the verdict and said in an email the jury deliberated about four hours over two days, but did not comment further on the outcome.

A woman who answered the telephone at the Saxion home said there would be no comment on the trial.

Brink was driving a tractor-trailer northbound on South Summit Road, West Salem Township, when he drove through the stop sign at Vernon Road and ran into a sport-utility vehicle, which was westbound on Vernon, Greenville-West Salem Township police said.

The truck also hit an eastbound minivan.

There is no stop sign at the intersection for Vernon traffic.

Saxion and his parents and sister were in the SUV and three people were in the minivan. All occupants of the SUV and minivan were injured to varying degrees.

James died about two hours after the crash.

Police took photographs and video after the crash that showed the view for a driver who was the height Brink was when he was driving his truck, Hindman said. The evidence showed “stop ahead” and “stop” signs were “significantly covered” by branches, Hindman said.

Hindman said he feels for the family and all that they have been through emotionally and physically.

“I understand their pain,” he said.

However, prosecutors had to show that Brink exhibited “gross negligence” at the time of the crash, and the evidence did not support that high a standard, Hindman said.

Saxion’s father, David G., has filed a civil suit against Brink, where the standard is the lower “negligence,” Hindman said.