A sheriff’s deputy who fell asleep at the wheel of a patrol vehicle near the Vermont border and slammed into another car head-on, killing the other driver, will not face criminal charges, New York’s attorney general said Thursday.
Susan Harrington, 72, was killed at about 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2019 in Argyle, New York, when a patrol SUV driven by Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Cori Winch crossed the center line and crashed into her car. Winch, who was finishing an overnight shift that he did not normally work, fractured his ankle and was hospitalized, according to state investigators.
The attorney general’s office, which investigates the deaths of civilians involving police, concluded Winch fell asleep immediately before the crash. Investigators said he was not texting or using patrol vehicle’s computer, and toxicology reports ruled out the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances.
Attorney General Letitia James called Harrington’s death “a horrible and unintentional tragedy.”
“Deputy Winch may arguably be faulted for failing to perceive that he was at risk for falling asleep while driving a vehicle while fatigued. Under New York law, however, failure to perceive a risk in itself does not give rise to criminal liability,” read the report from the AG’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit.
Investigators recommended that law enforcement agencies that frequently require officers to drive alone at night in rural areas install advanced safety features in their vehicles, such as lane departure warning systems.