“I never realized how far you travel in eight seconds.” Trucker who rear-ended car in Lake Elmo, killing driver, apologizes in new video

“I never realized how far you travel in eight seconds.” Trucker who rear-ended car in Lake Elmo, killing driver, apologizes in new video

The semi-truck driver who rear-ended and killed a college professor at a red light on Minnesota 36 in Lake Elmo in 2018 says he replays that fatal moment in his head many times a day.

“There wasn’t anything I could do,” Samuel Hicks says in a video on distracted driving, released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. “I was out of control. From the time I looked down at my phone until the time that I looked up, eight seconds had passed. I never realized how far you travel in eight seconds.”

Samuel Hicks

Hicks, 30, says he was texting with his then-girlfriend and using the Zillow real-estate app to look at a house listing on his cellphone when he struck and killed Robert Bursik, 54, of Amery, Wis.

“I pulled out my phone to look at it, to see what she was talking about,” he says. “I thought it would be fine. I thought, ‘Nothing will happen.’ He was stopped at a stoplight. I was going 63 miles per hour. It hit so hard that my truck went on top of his car. I couldn’t steer. The brakes didn’t do anything. I couldn’t do anything.”

The 10-minute video, “Eight Seconds: One Fatal Distraction,” is the first interview that Hicks has done about the Feb. 27, 2018, incident. It was recorded in January at the Washington County Jail; Hicks, who was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide, was released in March.

Hicks worked for a trucking company in Eau Claire, Wis. He says in the video that he was leaving his “second-to-last (delivery) stop” for the day and was heading back to Wisconsin when he struck Bursik’s Scion XB.

“I looked up right before I hit the vehicle, and my truck went right on top of his car and pushed him all the way through the intersection,” Hicks says. “I got out of the truck as fast as I could, and I ran back to the car. By then, it sank in fully that it was too late.”

Robert Bursik

Bursik’s car was so mangled that it had to be towed to the Lake Elmo Fire Department, where it took crews several hours to extricate his body, says his wife, Jessica Bursik, in the video. “That is a haunting image in my mind that I think about all the time,” she says.

While photos of Bursik with his wife and three children flash on the screen, Jessica Bursik and daughter Jaci Davis explain that Bursik missed seeing Davis’ wedding, the birth of his first grandson and his eldest son’s college graduation. He will never get to see his youngest son, Ian, grow up, they say.

“I feel so sad for my son — that he never got to meet him and have him as a grandpa,” Davis says. “It’s just so hard to think about that he doesn’t get to be here for the world and continue making an impact.”

Bursik, a professor at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, also was the owner and founder of Dragonfly Gardens, a nursery and greenhouse with locations in Amery and Turtle Lake, Wis.

The video concludes with Hicks, the father of two young children, issuing a warning to anyone who might consider driving while distracted.

“You definitely don’t want to be that person who takes someone else’s life,” he says. “You don’t want to go to jail over it. You don’t want to hurt your own family and their family. I know in the future, my family will get to have me back for holidays, but Mr. Bursik’s family won’t have him back for any future holidays. It’s heartbreaking to know that that happened — to know that I caused that, to know that it’s my fault.

“I can’t say I’m sorry enough,’ he says. “I can’t tell you how bad I feel knowing that you have to grow up without your father. I wish I could take it all back. I wish I could change the events. Getting one text and checking one Zillow link led to an entire life of regret, remorse, sadness, heartbreak. This can happen to anybody. All it takes is one poor decision.”


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