Bay Bridge crash occurred after momentary lapse of attention by truck driver

The July 19 crash sent a 24-year-old woman and her car off the bridge and into the water. Photo: ABC7

A truck driver on his first run in the United States glanced ever so briefly away from the road while approaching the Bay Bridge July 19, leading to a crash that sent a 24-year-old woman and her car into the Chesapeake Bay.

The findings from a National Transportation Safety Board report on that crash on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge were released Monday, which indicate that just a brief lapse of attention on the part of the tractor trailer driver led to the chain-reaction accident.

The crash happened in the eastbound lanes of the Bay Bridge just before 8:30 p.m. July 19, when a tractor trailer rear ended a car driven by 24-year-old Morgan Lake, a Calvert County resident. Her car then collided with another vehicle, and the chain reaction pushed her car up and over the bridge's barrier.

Then, the NTSB report says, Lake's car plummeted 27 feet into the bay. Remarkably, Lake suffered only minor injuries and she was able to swim to safety on a cluster of nearby rocks. Neither the truck driver, a 29-year-old Hungarian national who had just begun driving for a Canadian company, or the occupants of the third car involved were injured.

The report indicates that the driver, who worked for Prince Edward Island-based Bulk Carriers PEI Limited, glanced into his rear view mirror to check lights and sounds behind him just before the crash. Once he turned his attention back to the road, he was not able to avoid colliding with Lake's car.

As of Monday night, the driver of the truck has been identified as Gabor Lavasz.

"I saw my car explode, glass everywhere," he described of the scene.

The NTSB says Lavasz drove for a Canadian company, and this was the first time he had driven in the U.S. without being with a more experienced driver. Lavasz is from Hungary and came to Canada as part of a temporary foreign worker program.

Lake was taken to an area shock trauma center for treatment of her injuries. She was released two days later.

The crash prompted calls to review the barrier height on the 4.3-mile-long bridge that connects mainland Maryland to the Eastern Shore; transit officials in the state quickly assured drivers that the bridge is safe.

"Our engineers were out on that bridge inspecting the bridge right after the incident," Maryland Transportation Authority Executive Secretary Bruce Gartner said. "We wouldn't have opened the bridge if we didn't believe it was safe."

No charges have been filed yet against Lavasz. ABC7 is waiting to hear from police whether or not they will be.