The driver of a pickup truck told police he had fallen asleep at the wheel before his vehicle slammed into the back of a family’s SUV in Gorham on Sunday, killing a 9-year-old girl, according to a crash report.

Kenneth Morang, a corrections officer at the Cumberland County jail, had clocked out less than 30 minutes before the crash and was presumably on his way home after a 16-hour shift, Sheriff Kevin Joyce said.

The crash killed 9-year-old Raelynn Bell of Cumberland, who was in the third row of her father’s Honda SUV as they were heading home after a trip to the movie theater to see “The Lion King.” She was initially taken to Maine Medical Center via LifeFlight, but doctors discovered that she suffered a serious brain injury and was declared legally dead early Tuesday morning. Efforts were being made to donate her organs, the family said this week.

Raelynn Bell’s family and friends have remembered her as a radiant young girl who loved her three sisters and her brother, and who had a contagious laugh. She was going into the fourth grade at the Mabel I. Wilson school in Cumberland.

Attempts to reach Morang by phone were not successful Friday. Two phone numbers listed for Morang appear to have been disconnected. Gorham police said he has cooperated with the ongoing investigation.

No charges have been filed in the case, but a crash reconstruction is still ongoing and test results are likely still pending from blood tests that will determine whether any of the drivers were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Such tests are standard for drivers involved in fatal crashes.

The fatal crash raises questions about staffing levels and overtime policy at the jail in Portland, where Morang regularly worked several extra shifts each week without limits – a regular practice for him and others, according to payroll records provided by the county.

Hiring and retaining corrections officers have been nagging issues at the jail for years. It is known as a difficult field that involves working nights, weekends and holidays. The strong economy, low statewide unemployment rate and competitive hiring market has made corrections work a less attractive form of employment than other options.

Multiple extra shifts in one week are common at the Cumberland County Jail. In the five-week period between June 16 and July 20, 15 to 17 employees each week worked more than three extra shifts, county records show.

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. Saturday and ended at 2:27 p.m. Sunday, Joyce said. The crash occurred about 2:53 p.m., police said. All of those shifts that week were voluntary.

Morang, who has been a correctional office for at least seven years, earns $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 of 2019, Morang worked 1,671.38 overtime hours, according to information released by the sheriff’s office on Tuesday.

In the four weekly pay periods between June 28 and July 19, the lowest number of hours Morang worked was 94; the highest was 110. It was unknown what percentage of those overtime hours were voluntary.

Christopher DeCapua, president of the National Corrections Employee Union Local 110, which represents about 140 people at the jail, said the contract in place between the county and his members leaves it up to individuals to regulate their time. He said that about half of the unionized employees work some sort of overtime each week.

Currently, there are 27 unfilled corrections positions at the Cumberland County Jail out of 128 authorized by the budget, Joyce’s office said. Two corrections officers are currently being trained at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, Joyce said.

Although Joyce said he is interested in exploring a limit on work hours, he said there is no scientific guidance on a number of hours a person can work without jeopardizing their wellness, and there is no state or federal labor law that provides guidance on that point.

“We are governed by the collective bargaining agreement with the corrections officers union that has no provision to address this issue,” Joyce wrote in an email. “Because there is no ‘bright line’ number of hours that is suggested in any of our research, our policy change will likely be a product of contract negotiations with our union.”

DeCapua declined to address whether he has concerns about the high number of hours some corrections officers are working.

“We’re offered overtime based on (seniority) equalization, and no contractual language limits us on how many shifts we take,” DeCapua said. “It puts me in a hard spot to answer that question.”

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