No jail for truck driver who killed HERO

The man who killed a H.E.R.O. driver last year when he wrecked his truck won’t go to jail, a Fulton County State Court judge ordered on Monday.

Kirk Sherwood, 47, will serve a year of probation and 240 hours of community service, and will lose his commercial driver’s license for 12 months and his regular license for four months. He also will pay a $1,300 fine for the Jan. 31, 2011 accident that killed Spencer Pass.

“If I had any indication that there was erratic driving, speeding, drug or alcohol use … behavior that we wanted to punish, I would have no problem putting him in jail for 12 months,” Fulton County State Court Judge Diane Bessen told a courtroom where Pass’ mother and wife and about a dozen H.E.R.O. drivers listened to the verdict. “But it was an unfortunate accident.”

Dawn Pass, Spencer Pass’ widow, let out a sigh at the judge’s words and expressed a contrary opinion.

“This slap on the wrist is a slap in the face to law enforcement, public safety, emergency workers and everyone who puts their lives on the line,” she told the judge, arguing for a jail sentence. “In life, we are all held accountable for our actions. Kirk Sherwood is no exception.”

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Spencer Pass, 45, was assisting a disabled motorist on I-85 south of downtown Atlanta when Sherwood’s pick-up truck – pulling a trailer loaded with an earth mover – sideswiped the bright yellow H.E.R.O. truck, killing Spencer Pass.

He was the first and only H.E.R.O. driver killed in the line of duty since the unit’s founding in 1994.

“You’ve taken something from inside of me that can’t be replaced,” Barbara Pass Clark, Spencer Pass’ mother, told Sherwood in court, amid tears. “I can’t hear my son calling to me any more.”

After the accident, the General Assembly passed the Spencer Pass Move Over Law requiring motorists to move an entire lane away from emergency vehicles on roadways.

Spencer Pass, of Jonesboro, had been with the Georgia Department of Transportation for three years and was the father of four. Family members said they plan to file civil suit against Sherwood and the construction company he was working for at the time of the accident.

Sherwood declined comment because of the pending lawsuit, but his attorney, Michael LaScala, said his client was remorseful.

“Kirk felt horrible about it,” LaScala said. “He wanted me to speak to [the Pass family's attorneys] to arrange a chance for him to express his feelings.”

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