Names released of 2 killed in horrific Berks Co. crash; big rig driver charged

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2 people are dead, 9 others are hurt as the result of a horrific crash in Berks County.

Authorities have identified the two people killed when a tractor trailer slammed into a line of stopped cars in Berks County Wednesday morning.

Jane Harakal, 32, of Topton, and Jeremy Augustine, 23, of Emmaus, were killed in the crash. Authorities say they were in separate vehicles - the first and the last to be hit by the 18-wheeler.

Berks County District Attorney John Adams says Steven Bernier, 50, of Reading, fell asleep behind the wheel of the big rig.

Bernier is charged with two counts of homicide by vehicle, nine counts of aggravated assault while driving, two counts of involuntary manslaughter, and various traffic offenses.

Adams said, "This accident today was caused by a tractor trailer who dozed off, crossed into the opposing lane of travel."

It happened at 6:30 a.m. on Route 222 (Allentown Pike) near Route 73 in Maidencreek Township.

Authorities say Bernier was five hours into his shift when he nodded off. The tractor trailer he was driving plowed into a line of vehicles stopped at a traffic light.

Several vehicles simply flipped over. But others got crushed between the cab of the big rig and a large sign in front of a Dunkin Donuts restaurant.



Ten vehicles, including the tractor trailer, were involved. Police say several of those involved had to be extricated from their vehicles.

Two people were killed and nine others have been hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

Adams says surveillance video from the Dunkin Donuts captured the scene, and he says it clearly shows that Bernier is responsible for the horrific accident.

Bernier was not injured. And while a blood sample was taken for a toxicology test, Adams says there's no reason to believe the trucker was driving under the influence.

"We believe in watching the video that he was driving at an excessive rate of speed for the conditions of the fact that traffic was backing up," Adams explained.

One of the responding departments was Northern Berks Regional Police, and one of their officers was in the Dunkin Donuts drive thru line when the crash happened.

Officer Robert Wood says at first it sounded like baking sheets tumbling to the ground. But when he turned the corner of the building to see what happened, he says in his 16 years on the force he's never seen anything like it.

Officer Wood tells us, "Being on the scene at the time that it's happening, that's the first time that something of this magnitude has ever happened. And I can just describe it as complete carnage."

The crash closed Route 222 in both directions into the early afternoon. The scene was cleared around 2:00 p.m.
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traffictraffic accidenttractor trailerpa. newsMaidencreek Township
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