A former Cumberland County corrections officer who told police he fell asleep at the wheel before a crash that killed a 9-year-old girl in July is facing a manslaughter charge.

Kenneth Morang, 62, was indicted this month by a Cumberland County grand jury in connection with the July 21 crash on Route 25 in Gorham. Morang worked for 13 years as a corrections officer, but resigned this month because of injuries he sustained in the crash that prevented him from returning to work, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said.

Raelynn Bell GoFundMe

Raelynn Bell of Cumberland was in the third row of her father’s Honda Pilot when Morang’s pickup truck slammed into the back of the SUV, which had stopped to make a left-hand turn. The family was returning from seeing “The Lion King” movie.

Bell suffered a serious brain injury and was flown by LifeFlight to Maine Medical Center, but died two days after the crash. Other family members suffered serious injuries but survived.

The York County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case against Morang because he previously worked for Cumberland County, York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan said.

Phone numbers listed for Morang, of Standish, were not in service Thursday afternoon or did not permit incoming calls. He could not be reached for comment.

Bell’s family declined to comment, but the family’s attorney, Walter F. McKee, issued a brief statement on its behalf via email.

“This has been an unspeakable tragedy for this family,” McKee said. “We were in touch with the district attorney’s office and were aware that the indictment was handed down. The indictment is small solace, but of course none of this will bring Raelynn back.”

McKee said he has been retained by the family to represent Raelynn’s estate and he is researching whether the county bears any responsibility for her death. If McKee intends to sue, he first must file a notice of claim with the county.

When asked if he has filed suit against Morang, McKee offered a brief reply: “Not yet.”

Morang had worked a string of long days and overtime shifts immediately before the crash. Such extended, often voluntary overtime shifts are now part of negotiations between the correction officers’ union and county management, Sheriff Kevin Joyce said in a statement Thursday.

Joyce said he hopes to strike a balance between needing to fill vacant correction officer shifts while not unnecessarily limiting the ability of a corrections officer to work desired overtime.

“There is no documented guidance on the optimum number of hours that an employee should/shouldn’t work overtime,” Joyce said in the statement. “Research indicates that there is no federal or state law that governs the maximum hours of overtime an employee should work for their safety or anyone else’s safety.”

The week of the crash, Morang worked a total of 88 hours at the jail, and he had done consecutive double-shifts during the two days before the crash, according to information released by Joyce’s office. Morang’s last shift began at 11 p.m. on Saturday July 20 and ended at 2:27 p.m. July 21, Joyce said previously. The crash occurred about 2:53 p.m., police said. All of the shifts that week were voluntary.

Morang earned $20.99 per hour, or a gross salary of $43,659. Most full-time workers who clock 40 hours per week log about 2,000 paid hours per year, depending on vacation and time off.

In 2018, however, Morang worked 2,654.5 hours of overtime worth an additional $82,750, and was on track to continue working a high number of overtime hours this year. Through July 13, 2019, Morang worked 1,671.38 overtime hours, according to information the sheriff’s office released Tuesday.

It is relatively common for corrections officers to work multiple extra shifts in one week at the Cumberland County Jail. In the five weeks before the crash, 15 to 17 employees worked more than three extra shifts each week, county records show.

Joyce said he planned to have an expert make a presentation to employees and union representatives on the dangers of sleep deprivation.

“Officer Morang made this trip to and from work on many occasions without incident, however, unfortunately during the trip in question a 9-year-old girl lost her life,” Joyce wrote in the statement released Thursday. “We are committed to doing what we can to meet the needs of the public, needs of the employee and the needs of the organization in a manner that doesn’t endanger others. Again, we send our deepest condolences to the Bell family.”

Currently, there is no mechanism or contractual language that limits the number of hours a corrections officer may work in a given time period. Employees at the jail are expected to self-regulate.

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