A truck driver from Saratoga County was sentenced to 1.5 to 4.5 years in prison after the 2017 crash on the Thruway that killed an assistant UB nursing professor as she was driving to work.
Kristofer Gregorek, 28, pleaded guilty to 2nd degree manslaughter in February for Ellen Volpe’s death. He was facing up to 15 years in prison when he was sentenced Wednesday morning.
“Like it or not, fair or not, you’re the latest symbol of distracted driving,” Hon. Christopher Burns told Gregorek before handing down his sentence, which was slightly more than the minimum allowed.
Prosecutors say Gregorek was using the internet on his phone as he was driving a box truck in a construction zone near the Depew exit on June 8, 2017.
“He didn’t look up in time. The Thruway narrowed to one lane. The cars ahead were all backed up going under ten miles an hour and he struck this car,” Erie County District Attorney John Flynn explained.
“It was awful not only in the sense of the damage it caused to everyone involved here, but most importantly it cost the life of this beautiful woman,” he added.
Volpe was an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo School of Nursing. She was driving to work from her home in Rochester when Gregorek rear-ended her.
“She was certainly the rock in our lives,” Volpe’s husband, John McIntyre said. “And I think about and feel sadness that she has not an opportunity to share those important moments with our sons, whether it be the first day of school, whether it be their first sports game, their birthdays, Christmas, and on and on.”
“I’m happy that I get to see her face in my two young sons, John and Paul, each day. And I miss my wife dearly,” McIntyre later said.
Volpe’s sons were just two and three years old when she died.
“Because of my decisions on June 8, she had far, far too little time with them. I don’t think I can express the pain that fact brings to me,” Gregorek told the court before learning his sentence.
“I, like Ellen, dreamed of parenthood for so long that I am pierced to the core by being the person who cut that dream so short,” he added. “I can’t imagine what her children are going through. But I’ve seen a shadow of that in my own son’s face. His mother and I had to sit down and explain that I may have to leave and for longer than he thought. I’ve never felt him hug me so tightly or seen such a look of pain upon his face.”
Gregorek’s attorney asked for a sentence of probation, but Volpe’s husband asked that Gregorek serve jail time, to “think at length” about what he had done.
“I wish from the bottom of my heart that I could go back and stop the death of Ellen Volpe from happening. Because I cannot change the past, I am determined to change the future,” Gregorek told the judge.
Gregorek told the court he was committed to sharing his story and sharing the dangers of distracted driving with high schoolers and other groups.
He’ll have to wait at least one and a half years – the minimum he will serve in jail – before he gets that chance.