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Lt. Gov. Murray Asleep At Wheel, No Seat Belt, 108 MPH Before Crash

By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV
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Lt. Gov. Tim Murray's car after the crash (Photo by: Karen Anderson)

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray’s car after the crash (Photo by: Karen Anderson)

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BOSTON (CBS) – Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray was apparently asleep at the wheel, going more than 100 miles an hour when he crashed his car on I-190 in Sterling last year.

According to data from the black box in Murray’s totaled unmarked cruiser released Tuesday, he was driving 85 miles per hour before sunrise Nov. 2 when the car started picking up speed.

Read: New Crash Report (.pdf)

The box, which recorded data 20 seconds before the crash and five seconds after impact, shows Murray’s state-issued vehicle was going in a straight line and he never hit the brakes.

WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports

The car reached a high speed of 108 mph approximately less than a half-second before the crash. The posted speed limit in the area was 65.

The data also showed the Lieutenant Governor was not wearing his seat belt.

He was fined $555 – $430 for speeding (108 mph in a 65 mph zone), $100 for a marked lanes violation, and $25 for the seat belt violation. Murray said he will reimburse the state for the value of the car, which officials say was about $9,000 at the time of the crash.

“The citation was delivered to the Lt. Governor at his home this morning,” State Police spokesman David Procopio said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Police had originally blamed icy conditions on the crash.

“Earlier determinations that the vehicle hit black ice and went out of control were based on operator statements and observations of slippery conditions on the road,” Procopio said.

“The new data, however, suggests that the cause was not black ice, as most drivers who strike ice respond by sudden braking and attempts to correct the vehicle’s course by steering action. Neither sudden braking nor corrective steering are reflected in this data.”

Retired state trooper Kerry Alvino says black box data is generally very accurate. She says in the Lt. Governor’s case, it shows he was “flooring the gas,” and she’s “amazed that an occupant in this vehicle wasn’t seriously injured, if not killed.” Alvino says 33 percent of all vehicles on the road contain so-called black boxes.

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager spoke with Alvino

“Based on this data, it is not possible to conclude with 100 percent certainty the cause of the crash. The data, however, is potentially consistent with an operator falling asleep and not realizing the car had gone off the road until the point of impact.”

Hours after the crash, Murray said he was wearing a seat belt, wasn’t speeding and was not under the influence of anything.

Read: Original Police Report (.pdf)

He never mentioned falling asleep, until releasing a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“I understand the vehicle accelerated significantly without breaking or turning seconds before the accident which State Police say is consistent when someone falls asleep at the wheel,” said Murray. “I now believe that is what caused my accident.”

“I take full responsibility for my accident. I am grateful that I am OK and that no one was injured.”

Murray had said he was driving that morning to avoid waking up his wife and two daughters, to get coffee and newspapers, and to survey ice storm damage in the region.

The crash happened at 5 a.m. and it was pitch black at the time. He said he had driven more than 30 miles.

“This is not the first time I have taken an early morning ride and I do from time to time,” said Murray.

“While out I decided to take a ride on Route 190 to see what I could of the storm damage. I drove up to Route 2 and turned around to head back to Worcester. What I remember next was the vehicle was off the road. The impact of the collision and the car turning over several times.”

Murray asked to take a breathalyzer after the accident and it came back 0.0.

State Police initially said they were not going to release the data, but the Lieutenant Governor requested that it be released saying as an elected official he should be held to a higher standard.

The black box does not record information that would show where he was driving prior to the crash.

However, the box indicated the car had been on for 42 minutes.

Based on the location of the crash, the data is consistent with what Murray told investigators, that he had been coming from his home.

Governor Deval Patrick released the following statement Tuesday:

“I was relieved that no one was hurt when I first learned of the Lt. Governor’s car accident. After hearing today’s report about it, I am again relieved. He is fortunate beyond measure to have walked away from that accident. The Lt. Governor has taken responsibility for the accident and is counting his blessings. As his colleague and his friend, so am I.”

WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson and Christina Hager contributed to this report.  

You can follow Karen on Twitter at @karenreports.

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