March 08, 2018 10:15 PM
A Chisago County commissioner has been charged with a felony count in connection to a wrong-way crash that killed one person on Interstate 35 last year.
According to court records, Lora Jean Walker was charged with criminal vehicular homicide Thursday.
Walker is expected to make her first appearance in front of a judge on March 26.
The collision that killed 62-year-old Gary Brisky occurred on March 11, 2017, on Interstate 35 near Rush City.
The State Patrol said Walker was driving in the wrong direction on Interstate 35 near Rush City Saturday afternoon before crashing head-on with another car.
Rob Schmidt, a Deerwood resident, was driving his family to St. Paul that afternoon. He said he saw Walker headed straight for his car.
"She was really just drifting down the middle of the road and I looked up at the last second and was able to just veer off the right and avoid her," Schmidt said. "I think had I not moved, we would have hit."
According to a criminal complaint filed in Chisago County, multiple witnesses saw Walker, who was northbound, enter the southbound lane of I-35. Witness reports said multiple drivers honked at her to get her attention. The complaint said she was seen laughing and weaving through lanes on the roadway.
The complaint said Walker traveled approximately seven miles before she struck Brisky's vehicle.
Walker told paramedics that arrived on scene that she was diabetic and knew her blood sugar levels were low, according to the complaint. First responders confirmed the fact.
Investigators learned leading up to the crash, Walker had a home care provider and used a blood sugar monitor that alerted her to her blood sugar levels. Prior the collision on March 11, Walker spoke to her mother over the phone, who said she heard an alert that her daughter's blood sugar levels were low.
The complaint also states that that on July 5, 2009, Walker crashed into a retaining wall in Vadnais Heights. The crash was attributed to low blood sugar. Because of the crash, her license was cancelled, according to the complaint.
Walker's license was eventually reinstated, however, she had to report diabetes-related loss of consciousness to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Walker reported being episode-free for four years through July of 2014, despite paramedics responding to her home for a loss of consciousness in 2011. Failure to report incidents would result in a six-month suspension of her driver's license.
The complaint said paramedics also responded to incidents in 2014 and 2016 where Walker had lost consciousness. Walker's next report to the Department of Public Safety was due in 2018.
When Schmidt learned about the criminal charges and the details of Walker's medical condition, he said he felt bad for her but also questioned her decision to get behind the wheel.
"That I find more bothersome than anything, that she maybe knew and understood that she had some issues and that she was still driving," Schmidt said. "She took somebody's life. I don't see this as a whole lot different than a drunk driver doing it."
In February, a search warrant was issued to review Walker's medical records.
Brisky's family issued a statement Thursday, saying the family has struggled to find answers to questions surrounding the incident.
"Today, some of those questions will begin to be answered," the statement read. "As the investigation intensifies and unfolds, we remain committed to advocating for accountability and truth, and we will work with the proper authorities to ensure a fair and thorough investigation and subsequent resolution."
Updated: March 08, 2018 10:15 PM
Created: March 08, 2018 02:53 PM
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