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Truck Driver Who Fell Asleep and Killed Five, Gets 10 Years
By E. Mark Moreno
San Jose Mercury News, June 3, 1995

A truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel and killed five Alameda County freeway cleanup workers in the state's worst-ever accident of its kind was sentenced Friday to more than 10 years in prison.

George Schaapman, 38, pleaded no contest in April to charges of vehicular manslaughter and gross negligence for plowing his 40-ton milk tanker into a crew along the Nimitz Freeway in San Leandro on March 27, 1994, killing four workers and a 9-year-old girl and injuring 14 others.

The accident was the worst ever involving California roadside cleanup crews. Caltrans suspended its "Adopt A Highway" cleanup program after the accident to review safety, but later resumed the activity.

Police found traces of methamphetamine, Vatium and marijuana in Schaapman's blood and urine. In the truck's cab was a half-smoked marijuana cigarette. "

Before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stanley Golde meted out a 10- year, 8-month sentence, Schaapman's attorney argued that truck drivers routinely take drugs to stay awake on the road and that Schaapman had to balance different drugs to drive.

Deputy Public Defender Kimberly Kupferer said Schaapman, who lived in Manteca, had to smoke marijuana because he was "jittery" after using Valium to fall asleep and methamphetamine to awaken before hitting the road the day of the accident.

While heading north near Marina Boulevard on Interstate 880, Schaapman said, he fell asleep before crashing the truck into a parked pickup, starting a chain-reaction accident with two Caltrans vehicles. The rig then ran over three men performing court-ordered community service and their supervisor.

Killed were Eric Springman, 32, of San Leandro, Jose Santos Morales, 38, of San Leandro, William Winfield Deane, 20, of Hayward, Charles Delbert Warner, 61, of Pittsburg, a Caltrans supervisor, and Talena Allonby, the 9-year-old Hayward girl who was in the pickup.

Schaapman suffered minor injuries. "I got out and looked around, then felt a little sick and lay on the ground," Schaapman later said to investigators. He was arrested shortly after the crash, failing five field sobriety tests, including one in which he was asked to recite the alphabet.

Schaapman did not say anything at his sentencing, although Kupferer said he was remorseful.

"I can't say he isn't if he's any kind of a human being," said Deputy District Attorney Scott Swisher, who prosecuted the case. Schaapman could be paroled in six years.



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