“I’m so sorry. I fell asleep.” Driver facing homicide charges in crash that killed bicyclists

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WAUKESHA COUNTY -- A 20-year-old South Milwaukee man has been criminally charged -- accused of striking and killing two bicyclists early on Saturday morning, June 6th on State Highway 36 in Muskego.

Brett Hartley

Brett Hartley

45-year-old Paul Brown of Franklin and 54-year-old Anthony Oliver of Oak Creek were killed. The close friends and co-workers were riding their bicycles -- training for an Iron Man.

Brett Hartley of South Milwaukee faces two counts of second degree reckless homicide in connection with the deaths of Brown and Oliver.

Around 6:30 a.m. on June 6th, officers were dispatched to State Highway 36 in Muskego for a report of a vehicle colliding with two bicyclists. Officers were advised that there were witnesses to this incident and that people on scene had begun life-saving measures on the bicyclists.

When officers arrived on scene, they found Brown and Oliver, and they appeared to be unresponsive.

The striking vehicle was stopped at the scene when officers arrived.

Police spoke with a witness, who indicated he had been driving behind the striking vehicle, and he observed the vehicle deviate from its lane onto rumble strips, and then back into its lane of traffic -- before deviating again -- ultimately striking the bicyclists.

When police made contact with Hartley, the complaint indicates he was "extremely upset." He told officers he had fallen asleep while driving.

The complaint indicates Hartley told officers he had been hanging out with friends in Richfield the night before. He initially denied consuming any alcoholic beverages, but did say he had been up for 24 hours. He indicated he had left Richfield while it was still dark out, and estimated he had been driving for an hour-and-a-half before the incident occurred on State Highway 36 in Muskego. Hartley told officers both of the passengers inside his vehicle had fallen asleep.

Muskego

Police spoke with one of those passengers, who advised that they had all been at a party at a friend's house in Richfield the night before. The passenger told police she hadn't seen Hartley with any alcoholic beverages after midnight, but she believed he had been drinking before then, according to the complaint.

The passenger told police they left the home in Richfield around 5:00 a.m., and Hartley began driving towards his home in South Milwaukee. She said she and another passenger fell asleep as Hartley drove, and she said Hartley woke them up when they reached Milwaukee to see if one of the passengers would stay with them in Milwaukee because Hartley advised he was getting tired. The complaint indicates the passenger requested to be taken back to her home in Waterford, so Hartley continued driving.

The passengers didn't wake up again until one said she "felt glass shattering all over her," according to the complaint.

Hartley told police he woke up when he felt and heard an impact on the front of his vehicle.

One passenger then called 911, and a passerby stopped to help.

Police say one of the bicyclists was pronounced dead at the scene. Another was taken to Froedtert Hospital.

Paul Brown

Paul Brown

A Medical Examiner eventually pronounced both Brown and Oliver deceased.

Police spoke with another witness -- who indicated that she came nose-to-nose with Hartley's vehicle prior to the crash, and she observed his eyes flutter and then close. She told police she even honked her horn to try to wake Hartley up, and had to reduce her speed due to what she said was erratic driving by Hartley, according to the complaint.

This woman witnessed the crash, and she said afterwards, she saw Hartley run to the victims and say: "Oh my God. I fell asleep. I'm so sorry. I fell asleep."

The complaint indicates Hartley was "extremely emotionally and physically distraught" after the crash -- even vomiting due to the extreme stress of the situation.

Police say they noticed an odor of intoxicants coming from Hartley, and a preliminary breath test indicated a reading of .06 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

Tony Oliver

Tony Oliver

Hartley was taken to the hospital for an examination and a blood draw. A Crime Lab report indicated a blood alcohol level of .052 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.

The complaint indicates Hartley told police he shouldn't have been driving because he had consumed some alcohol the night before, and he shouldn't have been drinking because he is 20 years old.

Brett Hartley is expected to make his initial appearance in court in Waukesha County on Friday afternoon, June 19th. He is facing 50 years in prison.

John Kotarski, a driving instructor with the Lada Driving School in Shorewood says drowsy driving isn't uncommon. But it's something you should think twice about.

"We teach people that fatigue is the most serious thing.  A driver who is tired, who has been up for 18 hours or longer is as impaired or perhaps even more impaired than a driver who has consumed alcohol," Kotarski said.

While Hartley wasn't over the legal limit for alcohol, as he blew a .06, Kotarski says the alcohol that was in his system likely influenced his exhaustion.

"If fatigue is a factor, it's just going to make matters worse," Kotarski said.

Paul Brown and Tony Oliver were from South Africa, and they were close friends and co-workers at Northwestern Mutual.

WATCH as FOX6's Krystle Kacner talks with Paul Brown's niece in South Africa via Skype:

WATCH as FOX6's Krystle Kacner talks with Tony Oliver's pastor:

16 comments

  • wtf

    Sad the three people.didnt stay in Richfield..selfish of the young woman to insist going home.even when the driver told her he was tired!!!! Hope she feels good about that the driver should have stayed put..it is his fault…two dead and his life ruined! !!

  • Laurie Rescheske

    Unpaved bike paths such as that one are not suitable for the road bikes those men were riding. Plus, they were training for an Ironman, which are done on the type of roads they were using. Please don’t shift the focus from the true sole cause of this tragedy.

  • karma713

    It’s tragic, yes, but stop condemning that young kid. The family isn’t holding it against him, you people shouldn’t be either. He wasn’t drunk, and he obviously didn’t feel comfortable driving as stated in the story, yet his idiot of a friend insisted. It was an accident, not a murder people. Accidents happen, tragic as this one is. Stop with the finger pointing, no one has the right to judge anyone.

    • Wilson

      karma713 don’t be so stupid. This 20 year old is an adult not a kid. He knows the rules of the road and should not have been up for 24 hours straight consumming alcohol as a 20 year old and then operating a motor vehicle for an hour and a half ride home. He had the opportunity to say no I will not drive I am too tired, nobody held a gun to his head forcing him to continue driving. Accident yes, but an accident that took two lives unnecessarily. There was no intent on his behalf to kill two people but it happened. Now he will pay the price for this the rest of his life and two families will have to go on without their loved ones all because of his poor decision to drive after being up for 24 straight hours and drinking alcohol before driving. Stop the BS about nobody having the right to judge others as people make judgements every day of their lives including people as dense as you.

    • biker&driver

      karma713 – the driver deserves to be condemned and judged because he was underage drinking, then driving with measurable alcohol in his system, and in the process KILLED. TWO. HUMANS. We absolutely need finger pointing in this case.

  • Fred

    He shouldn’t have had any alcohol in his system. He should have stayed and slept before driving………..hind sight is always 20/20, but in this case his bad decisions cost two people their lives. His life is effectively ruined. Once the legal issues are resolved he can relive this event every waking minute the rest of his life. A tragedy no matter how you view it.

  • Wilson

    This guy and his friends are pretty stupid. Not a lot of advanced planning to attend a party in Richfield and then have to drive somone all the way to Waterford after having been up for 24 hours straight??? Since he had already stayed there until 5am, why not just stay another 4-5 hours and actually get some sleep?? And who hosted the party in Richfield that had at least 1 underage drinker in attendance and probably more than that based on the driver’s age??? Sadly with as much as he hear about drunk drivers in the news, some people still don’t get it and continue to do stupid things like this going to drinking parties far away from where you live and not making plans in advance for a safe ride home.

  • 1234

    Everyone keeps saying “he shouldn’t be punished with 50 years” “50 years is ridiculous” and “his life will be ruined”… You know what. YES! He deserves this punishment. He is an adult that can make his own decisions and any educated individual should know when their not fit to drive. Yes, he ruined his life, he killed two innocent men, although it was an accident it could have been easily prevented.

  • Garrett

    A tragic accident for everyone involved. He deserves some sort of punishment. But homicide charges are a bit much. For homicide they have to show there was intent to kill these 2 men, which there wasnt. A sad event which could have easily been avoided.

    • biker&driver

      Garrett – homicide is completely appropriate. You have internet access and time on your hands, search for the statute. Oh wait, you’d rather mouth off than know what you’re talking about so here I did it for you. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/940/I/06 which states that reckless activity that you know is likely to cause death is enough to be prosecuted. Driving while boozed up after pulling an all nighter seems to match.

  • elt

    All of you, put your right hand in your chest, where your heart is and confess that this could happen to you too! We all are humans, meaning ore than capable to make mistakes. I’m so sorry and deeply touched by the loss of two men, but I’m also convinced that no one would take a way the day and time of your departure from this life. All of us will do it, in different ways, at the end it really doesn’t matter how neither when. Enjoy the rest of your lives.

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