Ex-truck driver charged with watching Netflix when he fatally punched Falmouth couple

A former tractor-trailer driver who fatally struck a Falmouth couple in January 2021 has been charged with streaming Netflix at the time of the crash, 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. On the way back to Massachusetts, Herring crashed into the Gattis’ vehicle after failing to stop slowing traffic. near the Kittery-York city line, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Court documents show Herring was watching a Netflix show about teenage magicians on his cellphone, although his attorney Rob Andrews said the accident 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 the freeway, and when he looked up it was too late to slow down, Andrews told the newspaper. Herring drove for K and E Trucking of West Newfield.

In July 2021, Herring was charged and pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance, but to secure the conviction prosecutors will need to prove that Herring caused the death through recklessness or criminal negligence.

“Not every accident that happens 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 previously offered Herring a plea deal that included his sentencing to 10 out of 15 years in prison, but then rejected the offer early in the trial, according to the Press Herald.

Unfortunately, this isn’t 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 accident, the Gattis family has settled out of court without a trial with K and E Trucking, Robert Kelley, a lawyer for the Gattis family, told the Press Herald.

There is no word on the cost of the settlement.

Geoff Gattis retired in 2018 as Executive Vice President of Bath Savings Institution. Betsy Gattis was a long-time editor and page designer at the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram. She also retired in 2018, after 37 years at the newspaper.

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