Semi driver pleads guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in fatal Lake Elmo crash

A semi-truck driver accused of looking at his cell phone and causing a deadly crash on Highway 36 in Lake Elmo, Minnesota last year pleaded guilty Monday to criminal vehicular homicide. 

The crash occurred on February 27, 2018. Samuel Hicks, now 29, of Independence, Wisconsin was driving eastbound on Highway 36 near Lake Elmo Avenue when his semi slammed into 54-year-old Robert Bursik’s vehicle while he was stopped at a red light. 

Prosecutors say a camera inside his semi-truck shows Hicks looking at his phone for eight seconds before slamming into 54-year-old Robert Bursik’s vehicle. The footage showed he made no effort to brake and struck Bursik’s vehicle at 63 mph. 

According to the charges, Hicks admitted he had been texting with his girlfriend on and off while driving down the highway. They had been talking about looking at a house, so while driving, he looked at a house on the Zillow application on his phone. 

Hicks initially pleaded not guilty, but he changed his plea Monday—the day his trial was scheduled to start. 

Hicks is expected to receive a stayed sentence of a year in prison and 10 years of probation. He will also have to work with the Minnesota State Patrol and participate in public service announcements and community outreach regarding distracted driving. He will be officially sentenced on July 19.