Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner announced Wednesday that commercial driver Jorge Fretts was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment of another person for the November 2017 death of cyclist Emily Fredricks.
Fredricks, 24, an aspiring chef who worked at a Center City bakery, was killed early one weekday morning while biking to work near 11th and Spruce Streets after Fretts’ garbage truck turned into her.
“This is that extraordinary case where you’re traveling way too fast in conditions that won’t tolerate it or you’ve basically eliminated your capacity by hearing, by vision and by not following reasonable procedures for a driving of a truck,” Krasner said. “The intent rises from mere accident to what we consider criminal intent. We are as serious as we can possibly be about being fair to all entities and individuals involved in an accident and just trying to get to the truth.”
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Fredricks was wearing a helmet and riding in the Spruce Street bike lane when she was hit by a Gold Medal Environmental garbage truck turning right. Activists later said the intersection lacked clearly demarcated bike lanes.
Video from inside the truck indicated Fretts was wearing earbuds in violation of Pennsylvania law and was looking down at paperwork in the center console area of his vehicle during the accident.
Since Fredricks’ death, her parents Richard and Laura Fredicks have been active in advocating for cyclists’ rights. “Our amazing Emily was a gift to us and all those she met during her life that was cut so tragically short,” the family said in a statement responding to the criminal charges. “While we commend the work of law enforcement, and put our faith in the justice system, we mourn her loss every moment of every day, and pray for the safety of others who walk and bike on our streets."
A lawsuit filed by Fredricks' family ended in a $6 million settlement, which also called for five $125,000 contributions to Philly road safety advocacy organizations. Settlement terms also included driver safety reforms at Gold Medal, including an enhanced safety training curriculum, and visits from Fredricks' parents to speak to drivers and managers about the consequences of safe driving.
These charges come just days after a study released by Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP) found just 16 percent of motorists are charged after fatal accidents involving "vulnerable" victims – identified as pedestrians, bicyclists or motorists.
"Until yesterday, no charges were brought against the driver," a Gold Medal rep said via email. "As the new operator/owner, GME reinforces the company’s commitment to proactive training and enhanced safety standards."
The study was initiated after Krasner's office declined to file charges against the motorist who killed 11-year-old Julian Angelucci as he rode his bike in South Philadelphia.
While that decision sparked outcry, Krasner's office later explained that the motorist had not left the scene of the accident, contrary to earlier media reports. They also found that the 4th-grader had biked out from between two cars and hit the side of the motorists car as they cleared an intersection, again contradicting earlier rumors that the boy was hit by a driver who rolled through a stop sign.
However, the BCGP cited several other deaths that did not result in any criminal charges, including:
-Peter Jasvicas, 76, a transportation advocate, killed in June 2017 while standing on the sidewalk at 16th and JFK by a driver who lost control of their vehicle.
-Tomas Montanez, 40, a bicyclist killed at Luzerne and Whitaker in June 2018 by a truck driver turning right.
-James Derbyshire, 52, who was killed in July 2018 when a SEPTA bus went through Frankford and Morrell and into the front yard of a home.
-Pablo Avendano, 34, a bicycle courier who was struck and killed by an SUV in May 2018 while turning left at 10th and Spring Garden.
Familes for Safer Streets is planning to hold a rally at 8 a.m. at 11th and Spruce Streets on Feb. 28 to demand increased road safety and greater enforcement for motorists involved in fatal crashes.
Additional reporting by Sam Newhouse