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Seizure-Prone Driver Imprisoned for Causing Near-Fatal Crash

July 1, 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Robert James, 215.348.6332, rdjames@buckscounty.org

A Doylestown man whose driver’s license was suspended because of a seizure disorder was sentenced today to serve 18 months to six years in state prison for causing a head-on crash that injured five people last summer, one critically.

Matthew Erwin, 49, pleaded guilty in Bucks County Common Pleas Court to charges including aggravated assault by vehicle, accidents involving death or injury while not properly licensed, and recklessly endangering another person.

The charges resulted from Erwin plowing his GMC Sierra pickup truck head-on into a minivan carrying a mother, two college students and a younger child Aug. 20 on Route 611 in Warrington Township.

Witnesses and police investigators said Erwin never slowed or braked as his northbound truck crossed into the southbound lanes and struck a 2002 Dodge Caravan driven by Cynthia Burton, 45, of Ledyard, CT.

Burton had been helping her daughter, Rebecca Burton, and her daughter’s roommate, Jenni Agosto, settle in for their fall term at Delaware Valley University. The three, along with Burton’s 16-year-old daughter, Rachel, were traveling to a Target store to buy supplies for a dorm room when Erwin’s truck struck them.

Cynthia Burton suffered a fractured neck, compound fractures of a wrist and leg, and rib and foot fractures. She underwent extensive surgery after being airlifted to Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health, and "almost died several time," Deputy District Attorney Robert James said.

Rebecca Burton, 19, was hospitalized with a fractured sternum and clavicle; Agosto suffered a broken wrist and broken ankles; and Rachel Burton had minor cuts and bruises. Erwin also suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The victims have incurred more than $600,000 in medical expenses, James said, for which they are suing Erwin in civil court.

Erwin’s driver’s license had been suspended after a July 2013 crash in Montgomery County in which he drove into a stone wall after avoiding a head-on collision. Afterward, he told authorities that he suffered from a nerve disorder that causes him to have seizures, resulting in the license suspension.

Nonetheless, Erwin kept driving, causing two more accidents in Montgomery County in 2014. James said that Erwin has told police “that in order to support his family, he was going to continue to drive.”

Erwin testified that he believed he had been cleared medically to drive again at the time of the Warrington crash, saying his doctor had sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Under cross-examination, he admitted that his license was still suspended when the crash occurred and that he may have provided incomplete information to the doctor who sent the letter to PennDOT.

“This defendant does what this defendant wants to do,” James told Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr. in court.

Defense attorney Thomas Logan told Fritsch that Erwin, a janitor for a Montgomery County school district, did not have a criminal record and was remorseful for what he had done.

Erwin promised Fritsch that he would never drive again, regardless of whether his license is ever restored. “It won’t happen, I guarantee it,” he said. “One of the main reasons, basically, is that it will kill me.”

Fritsch, calling Erwin “a tremendous menace to society” for getting behind the wheel with his medical condition, sentenced him to serve one to three years for aggravated assault by vehicle, plus a consecutive six months to three years for accidents involving death or injury while not properly licensed.

“You were driving on the road recklessly…,” Fritsch said. “The bottom line is, you should not have been behind the wheel when this incident occurred.”

Approved for release by Marc J. Furber, Deputy District Attorney.

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