The driver of an ambulance whose patient died after he ran into the back of a tanker truck last year in Stafford County was ordered Friday to serve a year in jail.
Matthew Alexander Vancamp, 31, of Manassas, was convicted of reckless driving following a three-day trial in Stafford Circuit Court. The sentence handed down by the jury, which includes a $2,500 fine, represents the maximum penalty for the misdemeanor conviction.
Samantha Lehmann, 47, of Culpeper was being transported from one medical facility to another on Feb. 27, 2018, when Vancamp crashed a private ambulance into the back of a tanker truck on southbound U.S. 17 and Hartwood Road in Stafford. She died March 7, 2018, as the result of her injuries.
Vancamp blamed the collision on being blinded by the early morning sun.
Prosecutor Kristin Bird was lobbying for an involuntary manslaughter conviction, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. But the jury decided to convict only on the misdemeanor.
Defense attorney Dave Albo argued that the prosecution was “trying to turn an accident into a crime.” He pointed out that Vancamp, a certified paramedic, had no drugs or alcohol in his system and had gotten eight hours of sleep the night before the transport.
Albo pointed out that several witnesses confirmed the sun’s glare was extremely potent that morning. One man said he’d lived in that area since 1999 and it was the worst glare he’d ever seen.
The defense attorney said Vancamp was the victim of a “massive” blind spot created by the sun and the shiny tanker truck, which was stopped at the time of the collision.
“It’s a sad and tragic situation,” Albo said. “But just because someone dies doesn’t make it a crime.”
Bird said that Vancamp was clearly not following his training by driving nine miles over the speed limit and not slowing down until an instant before the impact. The investigation showed that Vancamp traveled 1,948 feet in a straight line prior to the crash.
“He was checked out,” Bird said. “I don’t know why. But he certainly wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing.”
Bird pointed out that the other drivers adjusted for the sun’s glare by slowing down. She said a trained, certified driver should have done at least as much.
Vancamp was placed in the Rappahannock Regional Jail following his conviction. Because his conviction is a misdemeanor, he will only have to serve half of his time, or six months.