Semitrailer driver charged after causing a fatal accident on Highway 36

Samuel Hicks

Police say texting while driving is allegedly to blame.

A semitrailer driver was charged with criminal vehicular homicide Feb. 28, following a fatal crash that happened the day before on Highway 36 in Lake Elmo. The roads were dry at the time of the crash.

Robert Bursik, a 54-year-old resident of Amery, Wisconsin, stopped his Toyota Scion for a red light at the intersection of Highway 36 and Lake Elmo Avenue just after noon on Feb. 27. His vehicle was in one of the eastbound lanes of Highway 36 when a Freightliner semitrailer, driven by Samuel Hicks, crashed into it, killing Bursik, according to the Minnesota State Patrol incident report.

Hicks, a 28-year-old resident of Independence, Wisconsin, was treated by medics on the scene, but did not need to go to a hospital. 

Bursik’s vehicle was so crushed by the impact that when officers arrived on the scene about 12:15 p.m., they were unable to determine the make or model of it, the criminal complaint against Hicks noted, adding that the Scion’s rear end was pushed in almost up to the driver’s side door.

The Scion was found against the cable barrier on the left shoulder, just east of Lake Elmo Avenue. The semitrailer, which had severe damage to its front end, had taken out several cable barriers before coming to rest in the center median roughly 50 yards past the Scion.

Police discovered Bursik dead in his vehicle, the criminal complaint said, but medical personnel were unable to extract him on site due to the extent of damage to the Scion, so the vehicle was towed to the Lake Elmo Fire Department.

According to the complaint, Hicks initially told police that he saw that the traffic light was green, but was distracted by another vehicle and when he looked back he struck Bursik’s vehicle. After further questioning, he admitted that he had his cell phone in his hand and had been texting his girlfriend and looking at a house on Zillow.

Police watched footage from cameras installed on the semitrailer and allegedly saw Hicks looking down at his phone for eight seconds before the crash, the complaint said, alleging that Hicks made no effort to break before crashing into the Scion at 63 miles per hour. 

Video footage also confirmed that the Scion was at a complete stop with its brake lights clearly illuminated, and the traffic light was red.

Criminal vehicular homicide is a felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both. Hicks is in custody at the Washington County Jail, and his first court appearance had yet to be scheduled as of press time.


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or

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