Lt. Gov. Murray was going 108 mph

Black box data indicate Murray was speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and most likely asleep when he crashed Nov. 2

Click here to see the collision reconstruction report.

Video from Lt. Governor Murray’s January 3rd press conference. Via State House News Service

New black box data from Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray’s state-issued vehicle indicate he was driving as fast as 108 miles per hour, not wearing a seatbelt, and most likely asleep when he veered off the road and slammed into a rock ledge before rolling over during a pre-dawn ride in early November along Interstate 190.

The State Police, which earlier had refused to release the black box data, delivered three citations with fines totaling $555 to Murray’s Worcester residence this morning.

On the day of the Nov. 2 crash, Murray told reporters he was out looking at tree and power-line damage from an October storm when he hit a patch of ice and skidded off the road. He said he was wearing his seatbelt and didn’t think he was speeding when the crash occurred. He asked for and took a Breathalyzer test after the crash, which confirmed he had not been drinking.

The black box data, which gathers information on the 20 seconds before the crash, indicates he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and that he was traveling at speeds ranging from 75 miles per hour to 108 miles per hour, the peak speed recorded less than a half-second before the crash. After hitting the ledge, the vehicle spun and rolled over while travelling another 232 feet before coming to a stop. The data indicate Murray did not brake prior to impact.

A statement issued by State Police spokesman David Procopio said an earlier determination by officers that Murray’s 2007 Ford Crown Victoria hit black ice and went out of control was based on Murray’s statements and observations of slippery conditions on the road. He said the new data indicate black ice was not the cause of the crash since sudden braking and steering action are typical responses to ice.

“Based on this data, it is not possible to conclude with 100 percent certainty the cause of the crash,” Procopio’s statement said. “The data, however, is potentially consistent with an operator falling asleep and not realizing the car had gone off the road until the point of impact.”

Murray issued a statement saying he now believes he fell asleep at the wheel. “I take full responsibility for my accident. I am grateful that I am OK and that no one was injured,” he said.

Murray was issued a $430 citation for traveling at 108 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone, a $100 citation for a marked lanes violation, and a $25 fine for not wearing a seat belt.

State Police previously refused to release the black box data, saying it is not typically analyzed in crashes that do not involve fatalities, serious injury, or criminal charges. The police even balked at releasing the information after Secretary of State William Galvin’s office ordered them to turn it over in response to a Boston Herald public records request.

The State Police changed course in late December after Murray asked the agency to make an exception to its normal practices and release the information.

 Speed, accelorator, brake and antilock brake data from Lt. Governor Murray’s collision

Inside the black box

By Jack Sullivan

The chart created from the black box data in the unmarked State Police car driven by Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray is a graphic display of the final seconds on Nov. 2 when Murray apparently fell asleep at the wheel before slamming into a rock ledge on Interstate 190 and rolling the vehicle over.

The chart above shows speed, accelerator pressure, and braking from 20 seconds before the crash to the point of impact and rolling over. The black line shows Murray’s speed going from 75 mph at the beginning of the recording to a peak of 108 mph just 0.4 seconds before Murray hit the ledge.

The rate of increase of the speed is related to the amount of pressure on the accelerator, shown by the green line. At 20 seconds before the crash, the data indicate the accelerator was depressed at 27 percent (with 100 percent being pedal to the floor) and Murray was traveling 75 mph. About 4 seconds later, the accelerator pressure suddenly spiked to nearly 70 percent depressed. The State Police report does not explore the cause of the sudden acceleration, but it could be an indication that Murray may have dozed off and stomped down on the gas pedal.

Over the next 8 seconds, accelerator pressure dropped slightly while rate of speed kept gradually climbing. About 8 seconds before the crash, the accelerator pressure suddenly spiked again, this time to nearly 100 percent, and the car’s speed rocketed from 93 mph to 108 mph, with the throttle becoming wide open as Murray’s car left the road and began heading toward the rock ledge along the roadside.

The vehicle’s  brake switch and Antilock Braking System (the blue and red lines) were not active until about 6 seconds before the crash, when Murray apparently awakened and slammed on the brakes. Brake pressure rose immediately from 0 percent to 100 percent and remained at 100 percent for about 4 seconds, reducing the car’s speed from 108 to 92 mph, when the airbags deployed after Murray hit the ledge.

When Murray initially slammed on his brakes, his foot remained on the accelerator, with both the brakes and gas pedal depressed 100 percent for about 2 to 3 seconds, delaying the car’s deceleration.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

The red spike shows the brake switch, which had been off, went to the on position 0.2 seconds before the airbags deployed and returned to the off position 0.2 seconds after deployment, even though Murray’s foot was still on the brake pedal for several seconds before and after deployment. That was about the time the car began rolling over.

The accelerator, speed, and brake indicators all plummeted to near zero after the crash as the car rolled over and presumably jarred Murray’s feet off the pedals.