Victor M. Kalinitchii, part owner of the tractor-trailer with faulty brakes that rear-ended an Infiniti on the Schuylkill Expressway in January, killing the car's driver and injuring a passenger, has pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide.
Kalinitchii, 41, of Northeast Philadelphia, appeared in a courtroom this morning in Norristown and testified that he was "grossly negligent" in the accident that caused the death of David Schreffler, 50, a businessman from Fort Washington.
Kalinitchii pleaded guilty before Commons Pleas Court Judge Richard J. Hodgson to a single count of vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony that carries a maximum penalty of seven years behind bars and a $15,000 fine.
Kalinitchii also pleaded guilty to two summary offenses for putting a vehicle on the road with defective brakes, and with brake drum linings too thin for safe operation. Each offense carries a penalty of 90 days in jail, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney James Zoll said.
An investigation by State Police Cpl. John Quigg revealed that the truck, which bore an inspection sticker, had not in fact been inspected. The sticker had been purchased from a garage in Philadelphia.
Both the mechanic who passed the truck without looking at it and the vehicle's part-owner who drove it have pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and related charges.
All three will be sentenced pending a presentencing investigation, expected in about 90 days.
The accident, which tied up the expressway for most of one day, severely injured Joseph J. Maylish, 55, of Media, who was accompanying Schreffler to a business meeting in Center City. Maylish has since recovered enough to return to work, Zoll said.
The tractor-trailer was deadheading toward Philadelphia, with a load of broccoli, when Schreffler's car, which was in the passing lane in Lower Merion, stopped because of heavy traffic.
The tractor-trailer couldn't stop because all 10 brake assemblies were so overworked and cracked that the brake drums were close to rupturing, an expert mechanic later found.
The truck hit the Infiniti so hard that it mounted the vehicle. Schreffler died instantly from asphyxiation because of massive chest injuries. Maylish was trapped and remembers little, he said earlier this year.
The accident involved four other vehicles, but no one else was injured.