Charges: Semi driver was watching Netflix when he caused crash that killed two people

A semi-truck driver has been charged after causing a crash that killed two people last summer while watching Netflix on his phone.

According to court documents, 55-year-old Billie Joe Grimes was charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide and one count of criminal vehicular operation.

The criminal complaint states that on Aug. 25, at around 1:48 p.m., the Rice County Sheriff’s Office and Minnesota State Patrol responded to a three-vehicle crash on Interstate 35 in Rice County near milepost 53.

RELATED: 2 killed in 3-vehicle crash in Rice County

Authorities say that a Toyota Camry, a Chevrolet truck pulling a flatbed trailer and a Volvo semi pulling an enclosed van trailer were all going north in the right lane and approaching a lane merger for a construction zone.

The Camry was moving slowly when the semi rear-ended it, causing the Camry to go into the ditch. The semi then rear-ended the trailer of the Chevy, which caused the truck and trailer to turn onto the driver’s side on train tracks east of the interstate. The semi also came to rest at the same train tracks.

The two occupants of the Camry, 57-year-old Matthew Hansen and 56-year-old Cimberly Hansen, died on scene. The 35-year-old driver of the Chevy suffered minor injuries.

In an interview with officials after the crash, Grimes denied being on his phone but said his phone was actively downloading an episode of TV from Netflix that he was planning to watch later. He also said his cruise control was set at 66-67 mph.

Grimes told authorities that he noticed the two lanes reducing to one lane and said he knew traffic needed to merge into the right lane. Grimes said he suspected someone ahead made an abrupt lane change, which caused a chain reaction where everyone slammed on their brakes.

Court documents show that Grimes told officials, “I just didn’t have time to stop, I didn’t have time to react and I couldn’t stop the truck. I hit him… But it was too late by that time. It just, I, I couldn’t stop ’cause it was loaded. It just, it just wouldn’t stop it.”

He said he couldn’t remember if he applied the brakes before the crash.

In a State Patrol crash reconstruction report, it was revealed from a dash camera inside the semi that traffic was stopped or slowly moving when the semi hit the Camry at 68 mph.

Another video from inside the semi shows that no vehicles made any abrupt lane changes and audio was heard coming from Grimes’ phone that troopers determined was a Netflix show.

Officials added there was no evidence Grimes applied his brakes. It appeared he was streaming the Netflix show for at least 20 minutes before and during the crash.

Grimes’ first court appearance is scheduled for May 15.